Taste of the East with sweet and sour chicken.

You can watch me make this on YouTube or download the recipes here

John is used to making this straightforward sweet and sour sauce in 3 gallon vats so he scaled the whole recipe down.Penny and John ready to cook

Although this dish may not be very traditional, it is simple to make at home.

Hot rice must be treated with respect.  If you want to use later for this dish or perhaps a cold rice salad, it needs to be cooled very quickly to make it safe.  Just leaving a pan full of cooling rice is too risky.  If not cooling under cold water, spread as thinly as possible on a tray and place in the fridge immediately.

For the sauce, make it thicker than you think necessary – it will become thinner when the chicken and its juices are added.

Tasting is essential for this recipe: the balance of sweetness from the sugar needs to be balanced to your taste with the sharp sour vinegar.  Keep adjusting until it is right, adding salt and pepper too.

This seemed like a lot of sugar to me – perhaps an alternative sweetener could make the whole dish rather more virtuous?

You could add some five spice powder to the egg-fried rice and slithers of fresh root ginger to the sauce.

The spring onion garnish was fairly simple: trim to cut off the roots and about half of the leaves.  Slice the onion from about an inch from its base to the tops of the leaves once on each side (dividing this section in to four).  Place in a bowl of water with ice and the onions will curl where they have been cut.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE
penny@laylands.co.uk

You can support the Holman adventure too: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/penny-melville-brown

WRNS 100 – the war pensioners.

Amidst all the hoop-la of this centenary year celebrating 100 years since the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, I wanted to honour and pay tribute to all the women whose lives have been changed by injury or ill-health due to their time in uniform.    Often it is easy to picture war pensioners as those outstanding men and women who march past the Cenotaph each November Remembrance Day.  But there are many more of us for whom Service life has had long-lasting life-changing impact.Two former Wrens with a magnificent platter of various cold meats and Mediterranean treats

Lyn, Janet and Jan joined me for lunch, many memories and, particularly, the often harrowing stories behind their injuries.  Being a war pensioner isn’t just about the impact of battle: many men and women bear the consequences of military training and activities that are preparation for war.

Most striking was their humour and motivation to get the very best out of life – war pensioners with the grit and determination to make their mark.

The baking blind apron logo on the label of a jar of coronation chutneyThere’s lots of help and support available from the ex-Service charities and more.  Lyn commended:

  • Defence Discount Card. This costs £5 per year but gives access to many shops and services that offer discounts.
  • Transport for London Veterans Oyster Card. This is free and the form can be downloaded from https://tfl.gov.uk/  or https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/veterans-uk.  Lyn suggests that this card can also reduce rail fares for the parts of the journey covered by the card.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

And the earth moved …

Back in the 1980, sipping pre-dinner drinks in the WRNS officers flat in Naples when the whole building really rocked.  We put it down to being rather heavy handed with the gin until sounds of chaos penetrated from the city: it had been a major earthquake damaging many buildings across the area.  Many of the Neapolitans moved out of their houses – preferring to live in their cars and fearful of further collapses from the after-shocks.  I think we assumed the appropriate stiff upper lip and carried on with dinner.

Just one of the amazing experiences of three fabulous years in Naples at the NATO headquarters.  We lived at the main Allied Forces South base but crossed the causeway to the Naval base on the island of Nisida.  I was even lucky enough to be flown home to RAF St Athan for a month to learn to drive.  Take my word, Naples was definitely not the place for a newly qualified driver: 11 accidents in the first year but only 3 went to insurance claims and did secure two years no-claims bonus at the end.  One quickly learned that traffic lights were purely advisory and one-way signs didn’t apply in the rush hour.

I continued the shooting I’d started at Dartmouth but moved to skeet.  The range was part of the American sports grounds in the middle of a dormant volcano.  I did a little competitive shooting and, because there were few other women, was respectably ranked alongside the men.

There was so much more going on: first car and then my fantastic Capri, Vice Commodore of the sailing club, outrageous parties, exploring Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean.  But the work was good too: I soon got bored of being just the administrator of the Intelligence Division and was able to get more directly involved in the material, exercises and inspections.  A high point was a surveillance flight over the soviet ships anchored off Hammemet.

And we had a great bunch of Wrens with us too (even if they did call the Shore Patrol when a party got too noisy).

Memories of the very best that a career in the Navy can offer: hard work, hard play and good people

You can support the Holman adventure too: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/penny-melville-brown-1

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd http://www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Elegantly small and simple cakes that take minutes.

I made and cooked these delightful little cakes during an interview with BBC Radio Solent’s Kitchen Garden programme.  Tiny cakes packed with flavour that will grace any tea-time but that take less than half an hour to make.

And I showed them some of the very simple changes I’d made in the garden to make it more friendly for anyone who can’t see: raised pavers to act as a guide on all the footpaths, water features and lots of fragrant plants to stimulate other senses, plants with strong architectural shapes and leaves for those with some sight.

Equally important for all my cooking is a great selection of herbs ready to add to any salad or other dish.  And tucked around are pottery sculptures I’ve made: even if I can’t see them, I remember what they should look like.

 

You can support the Holman adventure too: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/penny-melville-brown

Filleting fish blind-fold.

Definitely not the easiest or quickest kitchen process for anyone who doesn’t see well.  But not impossible: John took me through it step-by-step and double-checked the end product.Penny using a short knife to remove the head of the whole plaice.

I just about managed a decent job with a plaice and, after that, the mousse filling and creamy wine sauce were dead simple.

We have a “Growers’ Market” in Fareham the first Saturday of each month where I can buy excellent pork, eggs, game and, recently, fresh fish.  The huge plaice came from Viviers Portsmouth Fish Market (www.fishmarketportsmouth.co.uk) –they have a great selection of locally caught fish, seafood, crabs and lobsters (02392 753621.)  I made spaghetti vongole with a bag of their clams.

Penny continues with the fiddly filleting while John just looks in to the camera.Two cooks with a food processor of pale pink mix.

My tips for filleting fish are:

  • Buy the largest fish you can because the bones will be bigger and easier to feel.  And worth asking the fishmonger to clean it by removing the digestive tract etc.
  • Use two very sharp knives: one short one for most of the filleting and a longer one to complete the skinning.
  • Have some sticking plasters handy!

It was good to have John back in the kitchen on a very rainy day – apparently bronzed from his holiday and our five day hot summer.  He was full of tales from Benidorm and his plans for an Easter cruise next year.John and Penny sitting at the table in the conservatory ready to taste their  plates of fish.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Keeping in touch with your local community.

Interview with Penny on Talking Newspapers

Talking newspapers bring the news, articles and, in my case, interviews to their local communities.  You don’t have to be visually impaired to be able to get this service – it is available to anyone.  Nowadays, the spoken word is delivered on a memory stick – just plug-in and play on very easy-to-use players with a few straightforward buttons.

I was whisked away to a small stone building in the car park of adjacent village, Stubbington, for an interview about Baking Blind and the Holman prize with the Fareport Talking News (www.talkingnews-fareport.org.uk).  In a tiny studio not much bigger than the average utility room, Suzie the volunteer technician and Carl who leads this local initiative, tested me for sound levels and put me through my paces.

They’ll offer the interview to the other local talking newspaper groups and even colleagues across the national Federation of Talking News (www.tnf.org.uk).  There’s even a chance it may get to the British Wireless for the Blind (www.blind.org.uk) that will loan sophisticated radios with internet facilities which give access to international programmes.

If you know someone who wants to keep in touch with what is happening locally but can’t manage the papers, this might be the answer.  There’s almost certainly a similar service close by so call the Federation on 01793 497555 and, for Fareport Talking News, Carl Cater on 01329 664364.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

 

Blind leading the blind in the Kitchen.

Nearly bloody Jam – not enough for a massacre but it could have been messy!  I had a new blind-leading-the-blind experience cooking alongside Madeline who also has limited sight but, together, we made her jam recipe.  It is especially simple as it doesn’t rely on checking temperatures.

Like me, she prefers using short knives in the kitchen because it is easier for us to feel what we are chopping.  And, of course, because I was showing off, I immediately nicked a finger.  Luckily for us, videographer toby spotted the blood and we could save the rest of the rhubarb.  The other piece of essential equipment is an always-to-hand dispenser of sticking plaster!

If you’ve not heard two people chatting about how they find life with blindness, this  is one to watch.

Following her success working within the NHS, Madeline is just about to launch her new business (www.madelineclose.com), specialising in gathering the real human stories that bring drier academic research to life.  She has a talent for “Discovery” interviews that have mainly been used in the retail trade but are going to be equally influential for many of the public services that we all use and need.  And, using her experience having a guide dog, she’s spent her spare time developing a unique dog-walker’s bag that should appeal to anyone with a hound: from the lovable pet to the working dogs of the police and others.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com