Category Archives: Faith’s Research

Courgette, Chilli & Basil Salad & Cheese plates

My Salad of the Month – possibly Year

Courgette, Chilli & Basil Salad

Courgette Salad a la Oliver/Chiappa

Boy it’s been hot the last few weeks.  Though I longed for some warmth for most of last year, I have to admit working in this heat is not a joy.  It doesn’t make one very hungry either.

We, the Dark Lord (my partner in life) & I, have taken to ‘cheese plates’ (the Dark Lord’s passion – is it possible I am shacked up with the Abyssal Wallace – and further does that make me the Fairy Gromit?).

Back to cheese plates.  I add some salad to try to counteract the fat content with some greenery.

I have found this gem from Jamie Oliver.  Lovely ribbons of paper thin courgette, tiny diced chilli, basil leaves & a mustard vinaigrette.  Heaven!  I make the dressing & keep it with the other ingredients in the fridge and just shave off a few ribbons of courgette as and when I need something that tastes sinfully good in this heat.

Here’s Jamie’s recipe (Thank you Jamie & Ms Chiappa):

I make it slightly differently because I like it all green: green courgettes, green chillis.  I also expect Jamie used a mandolin but they scare me to death so I use a potato peeler – the sort with blades that are 90 degrees to the handle.

Also quantities:  Half a medium courgette & half a chilli make enough for us two for lunch with about 1/4 of the viniagrette.

More about Cheese for budget cheeseplaters – To keep the budget from blowing up, I buy 3 different cheeses a month and cheddar more often as a back stop.  Usually I buy Brie or Camembert, Stilton & a random one other.  Stilton being the favourite of the dark force.  We have a sliver of each plus something like a slice of quiche or ham, bread or cheese biscuits, olives & tomatoes and of course a salad of my invention.

All of the above ingredients most supermarkets have in a cheap basics, essentials or savers type range.  The cheap cheese is really not at all bad.  If we are in the money, we might have one really good cheese which lifts all the rest.  I have a yen for the lovely, stinky Epoisse but that really is for special occasions.


Ratatouille & Hungarian Good Luck Lentil Soup

After my little holiday at the NHS’ pleasure, I have finally got back into cooking.  I have made two new recipes this week.  The first, an old favourite, Ratatouille.  This recipe I found in the Guardian by Felicity Cloake.  Its a delight – the vegetables are mostly roasted rather than bubbled in a pot which gives it a lovely roasty flavour.  Heaven.  Here is the original:


  • 2 peppers – whole
  • 1 medium onion – small dice
  • 8 tomatoes – 4 chopped, 4 sliced
  • 3 courgettes – sliced
  • 1 aubergine – sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic – minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 sprigs of thyme (I used dried as a substitute)
  • pinch of saffron (I didn’t have any so left this out)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (I added a tbsp Madeira instead)


  1. Roast the peppers at 230deg.C (20mins-ish) then leave to cool.
  2. Soften the onions with 2tbsp olive oil (8mins).  Add garlic 5mins in.  Then add the tomatoes, thyme and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Peel and dice the peppers and add to the pan with the Madeira (saffron & vinegar).
  4. Put in the oven-proof dish with the other vegetables, cover with foil and roast at 140deg.C for 2 hours. Remove foil & roast for a further 30mins.

The second recipe I tried was a Hungarian lentil soup or stew made with a Hungarian paprika sausage.  I found it on a website called Starving Chef:  It made my partner very happy & nostalgic for Hungary which was my intention (risky because I have never been there and he has).  I added diced potato & mushrooms to bulk it out a bit. You could add more lentils but they are rather wind inducing.


  • 1 tin green lentils
  • 2 carrots – thickly sliced
  • 3 medium potatoes – peeled & diced
  • 2 large mushrooms – sliced
  • 2 celery stick – thickly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 2 medium red onions – diced
  • 1 Gyulai Hungarian dry sausage – sliced (Needs to be a paprika based sausage if you need to substitute.  I found some ‘Hungarian Pepperoni’ which was the closest I could find.  I suspect Spanish Chorizo would also work)
  • 1/4lb Kolozsvari bacon – diced (I used British bacon)
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 stalks rosemary
  • water (I added about about 3mugs full)


  1. Saute the sausage & bacon till its brown and crispy (~5mins) & remove from pan
  2. Add all the vegetables, rosemary, bay leaves & lentils and sweat for about 5mins then add the puree & water. Season as necessary and simmer for about 50mins.
  3. Return the bacon & sausage and cook for another 10mins.

Roast Duck a la Wareing

I made Roast Duck using a Marcus Wareing recipe today – delicious, lovely and moist.  Thank you Mr Wareing.

Mr Wareing’s recipe:

I did have to depart a bit as I was missing a few ingredients.  Some I wished I had, especially the Madeira.

  • Madeira – I substituted white wine and a little brandy.  Madeira would be better.
  • Leek – I added extra onion
  • Star Anise & Cinnamon sticks – I substituted two tsps of 5 spice.  Whole spices better but 5 spice contains both.
  • Garlic & Ginger – I used a squeeze each of the fresh purees.  Obviously fresh pieces would be better.
  • Chillies – Added a punch of course ground dried red chilli.

The liquor didn’t thicken enough to glaze the duck for the final roasting – I suspect because there was not enough sugar without the Madeira – but it was a joy to eat:  Moist with a slight kick of spice and a crispy skin.  We had a weird ‘crown’ roast – poor thing was missing its back legs and arse but its going to last one more meat meal for two of us and then the bones and left over bits will make a nice soup or stock.  I also have enough duck fat for a few weeks – looking forward to the roast tatties.  So my £5 special offer bird will have made 6.5 meals.  A lovely treat from not much more than a chicken.

I miss Mr Adams

Found quote of the day:

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes”

Douglas Adams

Using Vectors in Photoshop

I have a very unsteady hand with both the mouse and my tablet and sometimes I need precise flowing lines.  The best way to do this is to use “Vectors” ie the “Pen tool”.  These are not so bad when you get the hang of them but I needed a lot of tutorial help to get my head round how Photoshop works with these.


The Pen tool uses Bezier Curves to make any complex shape you like.

You can place the shape approximately and edit once the curve is complete.  Start with the fewest anchor points you can get away with.  Note: You need one for each change in direction of the shape you are bounding.  To make smooth curve then the direction lines need to be at a tangent to the curve you are making.  The length of the direction line determines how much influence the associated action point has on the curve.

Pull out the handles and make the direction lines as tangential as you can then modify the length to roughly describe the curve you want.

Then locate the next Anchor Point.  If the curve bounds a closed shape then to complete hover the starting point till a little circle appears then left click to confirm.

  • Left click to locate an “Anchor Point”.
  • Release without dragging for Straight lines.  (I tend to drag anyway as I find them difficult to add later – I’m sure there is a better way than making a new anchor and deleting the old one.)
  • Hold and drag you will get the “Handles” for “Bezier Curves”. Handles consist of “Direction Lines” with “Control Points” at the end.
  • Use the “Path Selection” tool to move the vector curves you have made
  • Use the “Direction Selection” Tool (White Arrow button) to edit the “Handles”. You need to click the button then click anywhere on the curve outline except the action points to activate the Path.
  • Once highlighted, click on an Anchor Point to show its handles or on the curve between to see the two Direction lines/control points affecting that curve.  Click and drag the control points to edit the curve.  Keep the direction lines tangential to the curve at the anchor point to keep a smooth transition.
  • If a corner is wanted Alt-Left click the Control point in question and it will allow the two direction lines round that anchor point to move independently.
  • To remove an anchor point right click on the anchor point and choose “Delete Anchor Point”
  • To add an anchor point right click roughly where you want it and “Add Anchor Point”

There are two modes: “Shape layers” or “Paths”.  Paths are temporary things to help you draw the outline of something.  Shape layers are permanent smart objects of a single colour. You must select the mode before you start making your curves.

PATHS –  I use paths like this to make boundary shapes for textures I need to trim in conjunction with the magic wand fence.

  • Make your shape using the pen tool (Pen Button)
  • The pen menu will appear.  Mine is at the top of my window.  Choose the Path button.
  • Modify using the shape to get it just how you want using the “Direction Selection” Tool.
  • Create a new layer & make it active
  • Choose an appropriate pen or brush for your outline
  • Right click and choose Stroke Path & the tool you want to make the outline with (Note: if you want a good boundary to use the magic wand on then make the pencil or brush thickness at least 2px).  Also check you have chosen a contrasting colour to the background for your outline otherwise like me you wont know its worked.
  • Delete the path you made by Rick clicking and choosing “Delete Path” (Sadly you have to as you can’t hide it and you cant get out of vector  path mode till you do.  Let me know if you have found a way to store your vector paths.)

SHAPE LAYERS – I use shape layers to make graphic images using plain colours (Rather like making collages).  In this mode the paths are put on their own layer so you can keep them and modify them when you want.  Sadly so far I can’t see how to use them to make complex fences or how I can add an image rather than a plain colour.  The shape is used to create a mask.

  • Make your shape using the pen tool (Pen Button)
  • The pen menu will appear.  Mine is at the top of my window.  Choose the Shape Layer button.
  • Modify using the shape to get it just how you want using the “Direction Selection” Tool.
  • Double-click on the colour square in the layers panel to change the colour
  • Highlight the mask square in the layers panel to change the shape
  • You can use the “blending options” in the layers panel to add a gradient or emboss drop shadow, stroke etc.
  • You can also make groups called smart objects – I haven’t tried that yet but the videos below show you how.

Good Video Tutorials:

  • Raster/Vector/Bezier Curves –
  • Paths –
  • Shape layers – Part 1 – and Part 2 –

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