Autumn food

My first serious attempt at Rajma – a.k.a. Red Kidney Bean Curry

The basic recipe is drawn from here: – thanks to Ceri for the variations and the live tips 🙂

First the ingredients:

  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed under running water
    2 tbsps vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil
    1 tsp cumin seeds
    2 medium-sized onions chopped fine
    2″piece of ginger jullinned
    6 cloves of garlic minced
    2 large tomatoes chopped into 1″ cubes
    2 fresh green chillies chopped fine
    2 tsps coriander powder
    1 tsp cumin powder
    1 tsp garam masala
    1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    Salt to taste
    A pinch of asafetida
    Chopped coriander to garnish



Due to the aforementioned tips I added another small onion and two more tomatoes

Now the method:

Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. When they stop sizzling, add the onion and fry till soft.

Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the green chillies, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders and fry till the oil separates from the masala.

rajma-cooking-resAdd the red kidney beans, 3 cups of warm water, asafetida, salt to taste and cook till beans are very soft (approximately 10 minutes). (This took 30 minutes)

rajma-ready-to-rest-resMash some of the beans roughly (this thickens the gravy).
Garnish with coriander and serve with chapatis/roti/wraps


Ceri’s variations:

the asafoetida / hing really does make a difference when you do it right. It’s not essential but to perfect it, it’s good. You can use wraps or gluten-free wraps but proper roti is best.

the fresh coriander is pretty key too, but don’t overdo it this can ruin the balance

also don’t skip the three cups of warm water part – it takes ages to reduce but worth it, cooking it early and turning it off for about an hour before reheating slowly makes it a lot better too, it goes into a lush thick sauce,

and even though it says to rinse the beans, save the tin water and use it as part of the three cups of warm water (heated in a separate pan) – also put the hing in the water as it’s heating, also put a very very small amount of finely chopped fresh coriander in the dish as it’s coming towards the end of reducing, and the rest is used as a sort of garnish on the top, put any left over coriander in a bowl to be used by people as they see fit, and freeze any leftovers

put salt in in stages, so a bit about 5 mins into the onions cooking, a bit with the spices and a bit while it’s cooking (you can taste test while cooking to see if it needs more)

all of that, plus turning it off for a bit really helps


I also made stewed apples and Victoria plums with turmeric and vanilla soya milk custard

Custard is made with 500ml soya milk, 2 tbs cornflour, a pinch of turmeric, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla extract


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TLT – Tofu Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich


Today’s lunch: Super tasty – Tofu, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich

Marinate cubes or strips of tofu in tamari, garlic, chilli and ginger before frying in sesame oil until they start to brown. Add freshly chopped or sliced tomatoes and stir for a minute, adding extra tamari and/or seasoning if it floats your boat.

Pile into two slices of your favourite bread with crisp fresh local lettuce.

The bread in the photo is one of my favourites, the organic granary from Allen’s bakery in Cardiff. It’s always good, but when it’s ultra-fresh it’s dangerously good!

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Wednesday Woes

I’m Wednesday’s child and therefore reputedly full of woe. There is, in the bottom of a biscuit tin somewhere in my mother’s attic, a creased black and white photograph of me at around 3 years old and if the expression I’m wearing in it is a typical one then there’s something in those old nursery rhymes.

It’s my wife’s day off and it’s already well past midday. It’s been a slow morning. Despite that a lot has been achieved so we’re off to Chapter – possibly for lunch (depending on how busy it is).

It’s gone two now. We did a bit of shopping and had Thai Carrot soup (vegan of course) for lunch in Chapter. Before we bought the soup we decided to become Chapter Friends, i.e. pay a membership fee and get some tasty discounts – we’ve already made £1.04p on the soup and got some free cinema tickets.

Here’s a picture of some Thai Carrot Soup

carrot_coconut_soup_2It’s not the actual Thai Carrot Soup we had in Chapter because I forgot to take a picture of it. This picture is from a recipe on the Peta Website.

The soup we had didn’t look like the soup in the picture either, ours was more soup-like and looked less like a blob of puréed vegetables.

The recipe is probably not the same either, it might even be completely different – or possibly all Thai Carrot Soups are much the same.

There are so many unknowns in the course of an ordinary day – don’t you think?

I’m still tweaking the WSSN book and will be putting a page about it all on the Opening Chapter website.

Time for a cuppa I think!


strawbsStrawberries and soya yoghurt – better than cream. Not that Alpro soya yoghurt is much cop to be honest – it’s got too many additives including sugar, flavourings, and antioxidants – and it tastes weird.

Other, more natural, non-dairy yoghurts are available.

Everyone’s got their woes, I suppose

Everyone’s got their stress, I guess

We all want things to be good, they should (be)



No one is what they seem. I have only anecdotal evidence for this, I mean, having lived with myself since birth I still don’t understand myself let alone anyone else. For all I know there may be other people who are so clever that they do actually understand themselves and maybe some people exist who understand other people as well, and if such people do exist then they have my admiration and respect, but to be honest I’d bet my non-existent fortune that such people do not and never have existed.

Coincidentally, as I was halfway through writing the above paragraph, a friend who’s as complicated a person as complicated persons get, arrived on our doorstep needing a chat about their complicated life. After over two hours of listening and sharing our insights and observations, the friend left to meet some other people in a pub. And do you know what? Yes, you’re right, neither we nor the friend have got a fucking clue about what the best course of action is. It’s all ‘if this then that’ or ‘if that then this’ – it’s all swings and roundabouts – six of one – half a dozen of the other – there is no correct way to deal with anything.

As the friend was leaving I noticed there was a closed shopping bag left behind on the seat they’d been occupying. “Is that yours?” I asked. “Oh, bloody hell yes,” they said. “It’s my cat’s ashes.”

So if today has been about anything it’s been about uncertainty and impermanence; the  wisp of atmosphere we exist in is fragile and we are vulnerable, but in the end we do exist and that is magic enough!




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in anticipation of going out


Mark Steel is on the radio in Paisley doing his usual low-level piss-taking routine, tickling the locals with his research and turning trivial facts into jokes. To be fair, he’s quite entertaining and informative, but I’m not sure if it’s very funny. News on soon, then The Archers. I’ll probably leave the radio on – it provides some background company while working on my own even if I don’t actually pay any attention to what’s coming out of the speaker.

At some point in the next few hours I will be walking to town (i.e. the centre of Cardiff) to meet my wife, who is out after work, celebrating a colleague’s retirement.

I thought I could write a piece about expectations versus actualities – in this case, writing down what I expect to happen on the hour plus walk to town and back and then, after the event, writing down what actually happened.

But, I can’t imagine what will happen on that walk, partly because I just can’t – you know, it’s just a blank when I try to sift through the possibilities – there’s nothing there. The other reason I can’t imagine what will happen is because I don’t want to imagine it. Part of me had the idea to speculate and write it down, but a stronger part of me simply doesn’t want to know.

I wonder if that’s the deal we’ve made with life – you know, just get on with it, take things as they come, don’t think too much?

I heard on the aforementioned Radio 4 earlier that the accent a person speaks with has absolutely no correlation with how intelligent they are. So, just because you speak with a posh accent doesn’t mean you’re clever and/or just because you sound like a daft sheep-shagger doesn’t mean you’re thick.

Fair enough, at first glance. But if you think about it, have you ever heard a bloke who speaks with received pronunciation asking for a couple of quid to clean your windows? Or have you ever seen a sheep-shagger collecting an Olivier award?

The conclusion, for me at least, is that being successful, at least in monetary and mainstream terms is not a measure of how clever you are. You can be stupid, sound posh, and be successful or you can be intelligent, sound crass, and be poor.

It doesn’t really mean anything, all this, you know. It’s just words, it’s an attempt to connect, to share some common vision – to prove that we’re not alone.


Anyway – The Archers has just finished  and some review programme has just come on where some middle-class reviewer is talking about a Norwegian Crime Thriller which of course ‘is not just a Crime Thriller’.

It (and this) is getting boring.


Still sitting here, Radio 4 still on, now it’s an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. Lots of cleverly constructed dialogue but nothing new of course – it’s a story that’s been told a million times before and in a thousand different ways. Good old Cyrano has provided overpaid employment for many hundreds of scriptwriters, actors and directors.

Maybe that’s the answer, you can be too clever for your own good. Just find something that is considered ‘good’ by the arbiters of culture, and copy it, being careful to add a little twist so you can claim it’s your own work. Maybe that’s the real intelligent thing to do – who needs original thought and innovation?

Here’s a sketch of what’s supposed to be a beggar.

beggarA Beggar goes Pop!

Despite the speech bubble, the thing in his right hand is a crutch, not a gun.

Anyway – it’s just a doodle related to the cover of my next novel – ‘Bums’. There’s more about that elsewhere.



I’ve been told there’s no such thing as ‘seagulls’ – they’re just ‘gulls’ apparently, but a lifetime of conditioning will not allow me to accept that, And while we’re on the subject of the nomenclature of birds, since when did some birds of prey become known as ‘raptors’? Anyway, I don’t really care about all that, but we were stalked by seagulls just now, on the way back from town. We bought some chips on the way up the main road and ate them as we walked home. A seagull circled above our heads, then another, then another,and so on, until there were at least seven of them; and as they circled they descended in slow spirals.

We covered the chips up and they dispersed, looking for another incorrectly filled recycling bag to shred no doubt. I thought about taking a photo but by the time I got my phone camera ready they’d gone over the rooftops. I took a picture anyway – of a seagull-less sky.

seagulls-notSeagulls – Not!

Then I saw half a bag of discarded potatoes on the pavement. I guess the seagulls weren’t interested in them because they weren’t cooked.

Fussy birds.

spudsVery bad photo of half a bag of spuds

Ah yes – it was a nice walk to town and back – a lovely evening.

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not been out

I’ve not been out the door today and it’s eleven pm already so it’s not likely to happen. Come to think of it I have been out the door, or doors, both back and front, but only to get the rubbish from the yard and put it out the front seeing as it’s bin day tomorrow.

It was a bit of a faff putting the bins out since it’s black bag / general waste week, and for once we’ve got a quarter bag of unrecyclable rubbish to put out. Trouble is, something’s gone rotten inside the bag because it’s probably been sitting there for a few weeks since we hardly ever have enough black-bag rubbish to put out.

Also, the top of the bag has been left open so it’s half full of stinking fetid rainwater, which could explain the smell that was hanging around the other day. When I lift the bag up, after recovering from the stench released, I notice that the water is not leaking, so I decide the best thing to do is to go out the front, find a drain, and stab a hole in the bottom of the stinking bag with a screwdriver, thus allowing the filthy water it contains to flow away as harmlessly as possible, then I will stuff the broken bag and it’s contents into another black bag, and another, until the smell is buried too deep to detect.

That’s what I did

Besides that I’ve been working most of the day on typesetting and applying the almost final edits to the WSSN book and fiddling about with the cover layout too.

I also made some soup. It was nice – spicy!

soupWhat was left of the Soup

Onions, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, chillies, red lentils, water, rapeseed oil, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, carrots – Clean, chop, chuck in pan, boil, simmer = ready!

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what happened today

“What is human emotion? Love, anger, fear – violence?”

What does it mean to be human?

humanssHumans – Channel 4

Over the decades I’ve read hundreds of Science Fiction stories and so far there’s nothing new about Humans – Channel 4, Sunday June 14th, 9pm. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, I’m not sure about that yet – though if my arm was twisted then I’d say it was watchable but not great – not yet.

Anyway, I don’t do television reviews and this piece of writing is supposed to be about me shooting from the hip and writing whatever comes into my mind about what happened today. (Truthfully – there’s no way I could ever write ‘whatever’ came into my mind, because it would take forever – so this piece will inevitably have a theme, a focus, and will only represent a very tiny glimpse of what came into my mind – look, this could go on until hell is a snowball . . . .)

So, today, was/is a Sunday in June. What happened?

Here’s a list:

Gluten Free vegan cakes –  I ate a lot of gluten-free vegan cakes today, which is unusual since I rarely eat cake of any kind but when I do, they’re always vegan and sometimes gluten-free.

Watched television – including the aforementioned ‘Humans’ and ‘The Road to Coronation Street’ – a repeat of a drama on some Freeview channel called, I think, the Drama Channel. Quite touching in a strange way, perhaps because it reminded me of my Grandmother who lived for a time in the small parlour of the small house I grew up in and who was a Coronation Street addict. She used to shuffle into the living room, reeking of the germolene she used to slather on an open wound on her leg, three times a week or whatever it was then.

She was lovely, my Gran, but always quiet and mysterious. I think she was illegitimate and became an orphan early on after her mother fell down the stairs. There was a German Captain Voss in her mix of ancestors but I’m not sure exactly where he fitted in and the uncle who did know is dead. Gran married a bricklayer by the name of John Brennan whose father came from Ireland so they say. He died when I was very young of TB – she carried on for a while in our parlour, her and the stench of germolene.

Chilli plants – We visited the Riverside Market, where I got the Gluten-Free vegan cakes from and where Chris Fowler, who works in the library service with my wife, was selling chilli plants. We got one – a special white one – because of the library connection I guess.

We acquired the gluten-free cake from two sources. From Fran, who makes vegetarian and vegan pasties, pies and cakes, especially welshcakes, and who used to supply the shop Pulse Wholefoods that we used to run, and from Andy on the Naturally Kind stall, who sells all vegan cakes and raw cashew cream cheese-type cakes.

While I was talking to Fran one of the Super Furry Animals and the ex First Minister of Wales came to the stall and made purchases. Later, another of the Super Furry Animals drifted past, and Chris Fowler, the chilli man, stopped to talk to him (Chris’s brother Pete Fowler is the guy who does the artwork for the Super Furry Animals’ album covers).

There’s a lot more I/we should/could have done and in fact did plan to do – like go to the allotment, sort the curtains out in the back bedroom, finish tidying the middle/dining room, take a drive to the seaside or down the M4 to visit mothers; plus I’m supposed to be working on putting together the book of short stories for the Welsh Short Story Network, but it was/is a Sunday and I have a deep conditioning to chill on such a day.

Anyway – this is turning out to be a bit of a ramble and probably pointless at that, so I’ll go back to ‘Humans’. I had an idea when watching it that I would write a review so I made notes.

Here they are:

There’s nothing new in Humans so far, nothing I didn’t read decades ago in one Science Fiction story or another. (I used to consume them as regularly as I check Facebook nowadays)

Who are the real humans? What does it mean to be human?

What makes us human? Being human is a very special, unique thing.

You are ‘chosen’ if you’re human, unlike, say, a rat, or a pig, fit only for for killing or eating or both.

Purpose of life.

Value of a human life – all that jazz.

Importance of memory -> identity

gradually unfolds that some of the Synths are conscious (machine life)

“these freaks are the singularity”


if you didn’t get it they spelt it out at the end

“What is human emotion?”





How do you teach a computer to forget?

In the end, at the end of the first episode, we have now got used to the world the writer and the production team have constructed – from now on it’s just an ordinary drama with all the usual human tropes

That’s it!!!


veggie-veganVeggie/Vegan stalls on Riverside Market

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For the Time Being

ForTheTimeBeingcreatespaceBookCover5_5x8_5_Cream_210-webWhile working on my next novel ‘Bums’ which will be published in the Spring of 2015, I have been distracting myself by putting together a volume of other bits and pieces, called for the Time Being.

It’s going to end up as a 200 page paperback book and will be published in late October or early November 2014.

For the Time Being is a bringing together of short stories, plays, poems, snippets and other fragments of my writing. Some of it is brand new, other pieces have been lurking in drawers for decades. Some of the work has been exhaustively edited while some is still red raw. Some of the work has already been published on this blog in one form or another, some of it emerged as I was putting the book together.

I don’t know if the book has any commercial viability – probably not, but I don’t really care – it’s primary purpose is as a distraction for me and something for me to read in my dotage – the pure essence of self-publishing if you like.

There will be more information about the book on Opening Chapter’s website when it’s available.

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Vegan Beetroot and Black Bean Burgers

Besides being very tasty and nutritious, these are really easy to make and hold together well

Delicious Vegan and Gluten Free burgers

  • 2 medium beetroots grated
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 white onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 chilli chopped finely
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tablespoon dried mixed herbs
  • 3 cups cooked black beans – mashed roughly
  • 4 tablespoons chickpea / gram flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon ground flax seeds soaked in a quarter cup of water
  • few splashes of cider vinegar
  • sunflower oil for frying

Continue reading

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Home Made Tofu

Home made tofu is amazing – make some today (or tomorrow, because you’re going to need to soak the beans)

Get hold of 250 grams of organic soya beans and some coagulant. A heaped teaspoon of nigari is good but you can use the juice of a lemon or even a tablespoon or two of vinegar at a push. You can of course make more by using multiples of 250 grams, but you will need a very big saucepan if you make a bigger batch.

250 grams of dried beans usually makes about 300 grams of firm tofu Continue reading

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The Black Sheep

He wasn’t much of a ram, small and weak, with no possibility of siring any of the sumptuous ewes that shared the lush green hillsides. He didn’t mind, he had his darling girl. She was tall and thin on her two legs, her hair as black and as thick as his fleece. He knew he was her favourite. Today, she hugged him longer and harder than usual and her eyes were wet with tears. Then she vanished. Later, the big man came back, grabbed his black fleece and dragged him into the back of a lorry.

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paracetamol“I’d just taken a couple of paracetamols,” Mr Pain said, speaking yesterday after his wife was tragically injured in a freak accident. “I was on my way to the kitchen to get a glass of water to swill them down with, when my nose began to tickle. I couldn’t help it, I just let out a huge sneeze.”

One of the paracetamols shot out of Mr Pain’s mouth and smashed into the right eye of Roberta Pain who was just emerging from the kitchen carrying a cup of hot black coffee. The shock of the impact caused Mrs Pain to let go of the cup, hurling its contents all over the cat, who jumped up from its place near the radiator and attacked Mrs Pain’s other eye. Continue reading

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Gluten Free Tofu-Wofu Burgers


just made these and they were delicious

we had them as part of a ‘sunday dinner’, including roast potatoes, steamed carrots and shredded greens, green peas, and a gluten-free gravy


makes 4 to 6 burgers, depending on what size you make them

  • 115g / 6oz chickpea/gram flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • water
  • 200g / 7oz firm tofu
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 or 2 small chillies
  • 1 onion
  • a handful of chopped cabbage leaves
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • tamari or other soy sauce
  • sunflower or other vegetable oil


place the gram flour into a bowl, add the ground flax seeds, and make a thick batter by adding water a little at a time and mixing well

let the batter stand while preparing the rest of the ingredients

crush the garlic, finely chop the onion, chillies and cabbage, and shallow fry them in sunflower or other oil, over a moderate heat, until softened and slightly browned

mash the tofu with a fork

add the mashed tofu along with the fried mixture, including the oil, to the batter and mix well

add a few dashes of tamari or other soy sauce, and enough salt and pepper to suit your taste

mix again

let stand in the fridge for 30 minutes or so, if you’re in a hurry you could probably omit this step

just cover the bottom of a flat-bottomed frying pan with sunfloweror other oil

heat the frying pan on the hob until a small piece of the mixture sizzles when you drop it in

divide the mixture up into 4 – 6 equal amounts

using your hands. or a big spoon, form a dollop of the mixture into a ball and place it into the hot oil, it gets a bit messy so you may want to wear gloves of some sort

press the ball down gently with a spatula until it reaches the circumference and depth of a burger

you can cook two or more at a time, depending on how big the frying pan is

cook on a moderate heat until it’s browned, and sealed on one side

flip the burger (be gentle at this stage), and cook the other side until both sides are golden brown, you might have to turn the heat down, and cook them more slowly if they’re thick

these burgers should hold together well, and have a slightly crunchy outside, with a lovely moist inside

Serve in the usual way, they’re nice with a squirt of tomato ketchup or a dash of cider vinegar


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