Friday, 29 May 2015

Nepal Update

It’s just over one month since the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April that killed over 8,800 people and injured more than 23,000.  With subsidiary quakes and aftershocks there have been a total of over 25 earthquakes in the past 7 days; 93 earthquakes in the past month and 104 earthquakes in the past year.  Additionally the monsoon season has now started, further complicating life for those living in tents and temporary shelters and those involved in the relief effort. 
Running for shelter from the monsoon
The global team at the Royal College of Midwives has been in regular communication with the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) since immediately after the first earthquake, Skyping every few days to offer psychological and technical support and also giving financial support through our fundraising campaign. . We've also been liaising with other agencies, both in Nepal and in the UK, to ensure that there is no duplication and that aid gets to where it's most needed.

Regular Skype Calls
So far we’ve raised just over £10,000 through our online campaign and approximately £3,000 through other donations.  What a fantastic response!  The first tranche of money transferred to MIDSON has been put to good use supporting an outreach programme to the worst affected districts.  In association with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Population’s Family Health Division, nine nurse-midwives have been recruited and deployed to work alongside government health services in primary health clinics in remote areas, supporting the development of midwifery skills and taking much needed aid and medical supplies.  The RCM’s contribution has enabled MIDSON to hire trainers and supervisors to prepare and support these nurse midwives and a programme manager to ensure the successful delivery of the project. The nurse midwives have been issued with tents and sleeping mats, raincoats and dried food to ensure their comfort and safety.  Kiran Bajracharya, President of MIDSON, said ‘I am so impressed with the dedication of these young nurse midwives to travel far away from home to help those communities affected by the earthquake.  They are so enthusiastic and happy to help’.
Training the outreach nurse-midwives

Training at the MIDSON office before deployment

MIDSON also want to develop a programme of support for women and staff in Kathmandu’s maternity hospitals.  Kiran explains: ‘with the trauma that both women and staff have experienced and the pressure on services, there is a lack of basic midwifery care.  Women need someone to show them love and compassion, a therapeutic touch.  We need to support hospital staff in providing respectful maternity care.  Women are not getting the support they need to breastfeed their babies. We want to employ some ‘midwifery ambassadors’ to reach out to women and staff in the maternity hospitals with love and compassion and we want to use the RCM money to help us with that’.
loading the trucks with supplies and with midwives before their long journey up-country
Finally, the RCM has been very touched by many of the comments from those who have donated through our just giving page and the creativity in raising funds.  Here’s a selection of some of those comments:

I would like all other women to have the same midwifery care as I was able to’.

On International Day of the Midwife the Supervisors of Midwives at Newham Hospital hosted a cake sale; with the help of some budding Mary Berrys and the generosity of all who supported us we raised this money for the mothers and babies of Nepal’.

A donation to help colleagues in Nepal help women safely birth their babies who will bring a little happiness in this sad time’.

This is Nepal's future’.

Good luck to all my fellow midwives working in such a tough environment. Your dedication is inspirational and the lives you save will never forget that’.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far. The RCM has been doing its bit too. We have taken collections at various events around the country and staff have been donating their own money, baking cakes and selling them at work.  I held a garden party for 30 friends and neighbours on bank holiday Monday and we raised over £300.  What could you do? 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Eating Nettles - fabulous free food!

With the lovely May weather and a slightly less frenetic pace at work of late (well, for the last 4 days anyway), I've been enjoying some longer dog walks with sights, sounds and smells of approaching summer: lawn mowers and cut grass, hawthorn blossom and the lovely bright green hedgerows.

Nettles grow everywhere on our walks so one day earlier this week I took gloves and a carrier bag and returned with some young, tender nettle leaves. I'd read that you should just pick the tips i.e. the top 4 leaves.  Apparently they're best eaten before June as they are 'supercharged with all things good' in spring and get a bit tough after that. The nettle is far superior in nutritional value to many other veg and a good source of vitamin C, iron and protein. 

First, I made nettle pesto, loosely following River Cottage's Recipe.  I didn't use nearly as much oil as Mr. F-W and used a couple of tablespoons of plain veg oil instead of rapeseed.  Instead of bread I toasted some frozen scones that were lurking in the freezer then crumbled them in.  Mine was a bit stiff but I just loosened it with some of the drained pasta-water.  I sprinkled the top of my Spaghetti with Cheddar Cheese and more toasted scone and grated a carrot for extra colour and texture.  And (of course) some hot chilli sauce!  It was delicious - and probably cost around 20p to make. It goes without saying that almost all the ingredients were Tesco Value.
Spaghetti with Nettle Pesto
Today I used the remaining 1/4 bag nettle leaves to make soup. Here's how:

Nettle Soup

Melt 2tbsp butter or olive oil in a large heavy saucepan.  Add the following and sauté until soft:
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 wilted, sad looking romaine lettuce heart from the back of the salad drawer (optional!)
Meanwhile, plunge the nettle leaves into another saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute then drain (keep the water for the soup) and plunge into iced water.  Drain again and squeeze out the liquid.

Stir in and sauté for another 5 minutes:
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • The blanched nettle leaves (to be honest, you could probably just put them in raw but I was a bit nervous!)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of mace
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
Add 1 litre water from the kettle, the drained nettle water and 2 veg or chicken stock cubes then simmer everything until the veg is soft, about 20 mins.  Blitz, drizzle a little olive oil on the top and  and serve with home-made bread.
Nettle Soup and Home-made Bread
I think I'll leave growing vegetables to the green fingered and just pick mine for free in the hedgerows!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Cheap as chips Vegetable Tagine with Wild Garlic Coucous

Today I found some wild garlic in the woods whilst out walking the dog and wanted to make something cheap and healthy for dinner, brain food for my daughter who started GSCEs and my husband who started a new job - a big day in our family today!

So here's my cheap as chips vegetable tagine with wild garlic couscous:

Place a medium casserole dish on medium heat (I use my Le Crueset, a wedding present from 19 years ago, still going strong!).  Add:
·          1tbsp olive oil

Prepare the following and sauté in the oil for around 10 mins till beginning to soften.  Add a little water if it starts to stick.

  • ·          2 onions (Tesco Value) – each onion peeled and divided into 8 wedges
  • ·          1 large carrot (Tesco Value) – peeled and cut into small bite sized chunks
  • ·          10 little potatoes (Texco Value) peeled and cut into small bite sized chunks (waxy potatoes are good but any will do)
  • ·          ½ butternut squash, peeled and cut into small bite-size chunks (by all means just use carrots which are cheaper, I just happened to have a squash in the drawer that needed using)
  • ·          1 chopped fresh chilli (or dried/powdered)
  • ·          2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

You can use any combination of root veg including swede, carrot, parsnip or sweet potato too.

Add the following spices and stir round to coat all the vegetables for a couple of minutes (if you don’t have some of these ingredients then add what you like on an Eastern Theme!):
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  •  1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  •  1 tsp ras el hanout spice mix
Add in the following and simmer for about ½ hour or until the veg is soft and the sauce has reduced to a thickish stew consistency.
  • 2 peppers (Tesco Value, any colour), chopped into small bite-size chunks
  •  ½ 400g drained can chick peas  - use the other ½ in the couscous (I buy ‘East End’ which are 3 tins for £1 at Tesco)
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (Tesco value)
  • One tin full of water (rinse out the tomato tin and add this to the stew)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  •   2 crumbled vegetable stock cubes (Tesco value)
  • 2 tsp honey or sugar
  •  salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Meanwhile, to a small casserole dish/saucepan, add:
  •  1 mug couscous (I used gluten-free)
  • The remaining ½ can chickpeas
  •  1 mug boiling  water
  • 1 small handful raisins (Tesco Value)
  •  5 chopped ready to eat dried apricots (Tesco Value)
  •  1 crumbled vegetable stock cube
I often turn the heat on, bring to boil then turn the heat off and let it swell up in the residual heat.
You could use value rice if you don’t have couscous – in which case cook the rice with the sultanas and apricots then add the other ingredients

Leave for about 15 mins then stir through 1 handful of chopped wild garlic (or parsley, coriander or chives, whatever you have.  You could also use spinach or rocket) and  a few flaked almonds.  Season to taste. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Spicy Meatballs, 60 p per portion

I watch very little TV as I'm too tired at the end of the day, but sometimes on Saturday mornings I catch up with my guilty pleasures like OBEM (I know, I shouldn't), 24 hours in A&E, The Hotel Inspector, NCIS or an Island Parish. And anything cookery.  (I leave University Challenge to watch with the husband as it's one of the few things we like watching together).

So this morning found me watching Rick Stein in Morocco making spicy  meatballs and it got me thinking.  I had some mince in the freezer (bought from the reduced shelf for £1.28) and plenty of veg in the fridge. Rick's version had loads of oil and eggs on top so I changed it a bit and this is what we had, served with spaghetti and a simple side salad.  It was lush.  Even if you buy full-price mince it only works out at 60p a portion (everything is made with value range products where possible).

How to make my spicy meatballs,  serves 6 hungry people

Pre-heat the oven to 140c.

Into the food processor, sling the following and chop up finely but not to a mush:

  • 3 sticks celery
  • 3 value range carrots (don't bother peeling)
  • 2 value range medium sized onions
  • 1 value range red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an ovenproof casserole dish (though you could use plain veg oil if you're on a budget) and add the chopped veg, leaving to saute on a medium heat for about 10 mins.  

Add, stir and simmer:
  • 1 tin value range chopped tomatoes
  • 1 pack value range passata
  • 1 tbsp sugar (you need this to counter the sharpness of the tinned tomatoes)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground paprika
Take a packet of mince (I used Morrison's Savers Beef and Pork mince from the reduced shelf for £1.28 but it's only £1.82 at full price.  You could use lean or extra lean if you want to reduce the fat but it will push the price up considerably). Place the mince in a bowl, add the following and mix well:

  •  tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground paprika
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
Form into small balls and drop into the tomato sauce.  Stir round gently then cover with a lid and cook in the oven on a low heat for 1-2 hours until really tender and delicious.  If the sauce gets too thick, just before you serve with spaghetti, loosen the sauce with some of the drained pasta water.

Serve with spaghetti, rice or bread, and sprinkle with chopped coriander or parsely and fresh chillies if you like them.

Even with the spaghetti and salad it's well under £1 a head.

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