Sunday, April 23, 2017

Saturday Supper: Butternut Squash Soup

A comforting, cheap, quick, and nutritious supper for a chilly evening, or a healthy starter to serve instead of dessert. This recipe provides four or five large servings -

1 small butternut squash
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 stick of celery

1 clove of garlic
2 chicken stock cubes

  • Wash and chop the vegetables (it's not necessary to peel the butternut squash)
  • Sweat the vegetables with a tiny amount of oil in a large covered pan - I use olive oil 
  • Add the chopped garlic and the stock cubes to the pan. Cover the mixture with hot water.
  • Cook until the vegetables are soft - around 20 minutes
  • Blitz in a blender/liquidiser until smooth

  • Season to taste - I add freshly grated black pepper and nutmeg, and a sprinkling of turmeric to each serving.
  • I serve this with a good wholemeal bread (for those who want added protein I sometimes toast the bread with some grated cheese)

Nutritional value of butternut squash :

 According to the United States Department of Agriculture database, butternut squash provides 93 different nutrients. It is a plentiful source of Vitamin A.

Turmeric is famed for its anti-inflammatory properties. It's an important component of ayurvedic medicine. I'm quite frequently adding it to food nowadays for the health benefits- and it tastes good in this soup.

Thinking About the NHS

Well, hello! Back for more of my ramblings? There's so much buzzing around in my head that I hardly know where to begin. I'm a bit pre-occupied, actually, with health issues and the state of the NHS (National Health Service - free at the point of delivery - for those of you who don't dwell on This blessed plot (Richard II, 2.1).

To cut short a tedious tale, I've had some digestive problems recently and have been referred by my GP for an abdominal scan. The received wisdom is that the patient waits to hear from the hospital. So I waited. For a week. After which I started to get a little concerned, having been on the receiving end of administrative malfunction in the past. So I rang my local hospital to politely enquire how long it would be before I was contacted. My call was transferred to the hospital group's central office for appointments, some 20 miles distant. The pleasant young lady on the other end of the line immediately offered me a number of dates and venues for the procedure.

By the time I have the scan 24 days will have elapsed since the date of my GP appointment. Presumably, if a GP has cause for serious alarm there is a system for carrying out tests on a more urgent basis. I'm, strangely, reassured by the wait.

But the incident begs the question that if I had not telephoned would my name still be sitting on a waiting list, sinking further down the pile when more proactive patients called in?

So here's the message - patients need to be proactive and vocal when dealing with our struggling health care system. 

Do we need a government that is prepared to invest more in health services, or are our expectations nowadays too high?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

An English Garden in April

I've bought a new toy this week and I've found my inner child. I'm trigger happy and have already pressure washed everything in the garden that doesn't move - the patio, the drive, the fences, the terracotta pots, the front porch of the house. I even washed the pavement in front of the house. And for good measure, I washed my car as well. I wonder how long it will take for novelty and fun become a chore?

The mallard and the ducklings have gone. All that remains are a few eggshells and some downy feathers. It's a mystery as, according to the RSPB website, the family should have been around for around 10 days after the ducklings hatched. I suspect intervention by the children in the property bordering mine, who seem to have found a route into my garden - I found a washing up bowl full of water close to the nest. I'm a bit miffed, to be honest. Apart from the fact that people have been trespassing on my land, I wanted to be sure that the ducklings and their mother made a safe transit to the river.

The tulips are past their best and I've started to deadhead them. When the foliage has died down I will lift the bulbs and store them in egg boxes and yoghurt pots that I have been stockpiling for the purpose. Apparently, separating them in this way will stop the spread of rot and disease.

 I spent an hour or so slapping preservative on to the railway sleepers that form the raised shrub borders in the front garden.The front of the house faces north and this border faces to the east, so it receives direct sunlight only in the early morning. I've planted hostas, ferns, alchemilla mollis, viburnum, and choisya ternata. The choisya tends to get some frost damage, so I cut out the damaged branches in springtime.

Now someone needs to get on with the task of similarly treating yards of fencing. As muscles that I had forgotten about are aching, I'm hoping that the resident son will offer!

Being out of doors so much during the past two weeks has had an unwelcome outcome - hay fever, caused by catkins falling from the silver birch at the bottom of the garden. I thought at first that I had been struck by flu but then read that hay fever has come early in England this year, due to the weather conditions.

I wish that I had known fourteen years ago that birch is notorious for triggering allergies - the tree, which is now around twenty feet high (even though I had it pruned last year), was a leaving gift from colleagues when I moved on to another job. I might have chosen differently if I had known that I would become unexpectedly susceptible to hay fever.

More about hay fever