Easy Pasta Bake

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Going to University means (unless you are in catered accommodation) that it is time to learn to cook! Here’s a quick and simple recipe I created by experimenting with leftovers from the week 🙂

Ingredients (serves 4)

12 oz pasta (I used Farfalle but any pasta shape will work)

1 packet cooked ham (the sandwich type)

2 handfuls spinach (frozen or fresh)

4-6 mushrooms (optional)

200 ml semi-skimmed milk

1 tbsp butter/margarine

Flour (ideally plain but you can get away with SR)

Black pepper

Cheese

Method

  1. In a pan cook the pasta as stated on the packet.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the spread in a second pan on a medium heat.
  3. When the spread has melted and the milk and stir well.
  4. Add a 2-3tsp of flour at a time to the milk/spread mix and stir well. Keep adding flour until the sauce is at your desired thickness (remember the sauce will thicken further in the oven)
  5. Chop the ham and mushrooms up into small pieces.
  6. When the pasta is cooked; drain and add to pan with the sauce along with the ham, spinach and mushrooms and mix together. Season with black pepper to taste. 
  7. Transfer the mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with a generous helping of your preferred cheese (I used Parmesan)
  8. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
  9. Enjoy! If there are any leftovers, simply put them in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 2 days.
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The Home Front Project Part 1 – Overview and Rationing

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The Home Front was the name that was given to Britain and all that was happening inside it during World War 2, while its soldiers fought over seas battles.

The home front lasted as long as the war did, from 1939, when troops first left, and people’s lives first changed, to 1945, when troops returned and people’s lives started to slowly become as they were before.

Some of the main changes that happened in Britain were that Rationing was introduced. This was because German u-boats and submarines were sinking British supply ships, and there started to be a shortage of food, so it was rationed so everyone could get a fair share of remaining supplies.  Women were entrusted with the more masculine jobs such as factory and farming jobs. This was because many of the men who had worked in those kinds of places had been sent off to war and these jobs had to fall to the women as jobs in munitions factories, for example, were vital for the war effort.  Young people were split from their families and evacuated to the countryside. This was because there was a huge threat of bombings in major towns and cities and the government wanted to keep the children safe.

Rationing

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Rationing was when everyone was given an identity card and ration book. These books contained coupons that had to be handed in and signed by a shopkeeper whenever rationed goods were bought meaning people could only buy the amount they were allocated. Although in some rural areas farmers were able to keep slightly more back for themselves if they wished.

Rationing was introduced in early 1940, and lasted for around 14 years until 1954, 9 years after the war ended.

Rationing was introduced because German submarines started attacking British supply ships. This meant many items started to run low as imports dropped dramatically by around 75%. Rationing was vital so that everyone got a fair share of items that were hard to get hold of during the war.

Some typical rations for an adult per week were; 50g of butter, 225g of sugar, 50g of cheese, 56g of jam, 100g of bacon/ham, 1s.2d worth of meat (6p today), 1 fresh egg a week, ¼ packet of dried egg, 100g of margarine, 2-3 pints of milk, 50g of tea, 88g of sweets. People were also given points (16 a month) to use on whatever other food they wanted. Foods such as fish, potatoes and fruit were not rationed so could be eaten regularly, but most other things would have to be savoured. 

It wasn’t only food that was rationed in the war. In 1941 clothes were also rationed. They were rationed in a similar way to food, as every item was worth a certain amount of coupons. Children (and adults alike) were originally given 60 coupons, though it was later reduced to 48 a year, so parents and guardians had to think carefully before buying new clothes. Most people had to “make do and mend” and just re-use and re-cycle old bits of clothing and either mend the old or use the old to make something new.

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There was an almost constant lack of food at times, so many people skipped lunch and had two main meals a day. People used dripping (a spread made of fat from a roasted joint of meat), and it could be used as butter. This saved some money and points. People also grew vegetables as extra food for themselves in their gardens, or if they had no garden, they would find an allotment (as many school playing fields and commons were used for this purpose in the war.)

When people needed new clothes they would perhaps trade with friends, family or neighbours, or in some stores younger children’s clothes could be swopped for bigger ones that fitted.  Many people mended or adjusted old clothes to fit, or used scrap material to make new clothes for the changing seasons.

Stop Horsing Around!

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One of the funniest news stories I’ve heard of late is the so-called ‘disgusting’ revelation that some of Tesco’s beef burgers contain horse meat. And? I for the life of me cannot see any reason to join in people’s outrage! Okay, there is the issue of labelling, in that it probably would have been a good idea to mention on the packaging that the burgers did in fact contain horse meat, but why should we care? Meat is meat, the burgers obviously cooked, looked and tasted like any other standard supermarket burgers otherwise this story would have emerged long ago.

I think the issue here is that some, and by some I am talking about the very small minority of people, do not know where their food actually comes from. Ask a child of about 3 years old where milk comes from and there is a good change their reply will be a shop.

During the Second World War, and many decades beforehand, we were more than happy to chomp away on horse meat, it being one of the few things that didn’t come under rationing. At a time when horses were all around us and used as our main mode of transport it was understood that the animal would be looked after for its working life then when it eventually passed away it would supply a few meals for its owners. 

Nowadays people see a ‘cute’ animal on a menu and automatically refuse to eat it. It’s similar to how funding for conservation works; nobody cares about ‘ugly’ animals or bugs, even though they are vital for the survival of an ecosystem, but say that you want to protect leopard cubs or baby monkeys and you’ll be guaranteed the funds you need. We’ve gone from viewing certain animals as good workers that will provide a good source of food when they die, to adoptive human children that we need to treat as we would a person and stroke and love. Ironically, although we can’t bring ourselves to eat horses, we don’t mind selling our dead horses to the continent where they are more than happy to devour them.

I don’t understand why the issues lies solely with horses though, lambs could be considered cute yet we love eating them on a Sunday with a large helping of mint sauce, we’ll eat rabbit at expensive restaurants yet they’re the sweet little creatures we have as pets.

Everyone just needs accept that animals will die and it is such a waste to not exploit a great natural resource of fur, fat and meat.

Christmas Cupcakes

Christmas-Cupcakes

 

Ingredients:

  • 280g plain flour + 1 tbsp baking powder (or simply SR flour)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 115g dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100ml milk
  • 6 tbsp sunflower oil (or 85g of butter melted)
  • 100g mixed dried fruit and nuts
  • 450g icing
  • 3 tsp apricot jam
  • sprinkles/icing sugar/coloured icing to decorate

Method:

  1. Sift together the flour (+baking powder), salt and allspice into a large bowl, then stir in the sugar.
  2. Beat together the eggs, oil and milk in a seperate bowl, making a well in the dry ingredients and pouring the mixture into it, along with the fruit and nuts. Stir until combined.
  3. Spoon into paper cases in a muffin tin and cook for 20 minutes at 200°/400°F/Gas Mark 6, leaving them to cool on a wire rack when ready.
  4. Knead the ready made icing then roll it out to approx 5mm thick, using a cutter/cup to cut out circles of icing.
  5. Heat the jam until runny, then brush over the tops of the muffins. Place an icing circle onto the jam, decorating as you wish, then leave to set in a cool place.

Exploiting the Rainforest (Amazon project part 4)

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Humans have been exploiting the forest for thousands of years. Today, we still use a technique used in the early 20th century to make tyres. One man may look after 30 hectares of land, but only find 60 rubber trees. The rubber taper then scrapes some diagonal lines through the bark. A natural resin called latex; which lies just underneath the bark, comes out and is collected. They then turn this into rubber. A rubber tree can be harvested many times, and does little or no damage to the environment.

 

Now, most ways of exploiting the forest starts with a chainsaw, and cutting down hundreds of trees. Logging companies specialize in this field. They tend to cut down the most valuable trees like Mahogany. Mahogany is in great demand, especially in the UK. Mahogany is worth £500 per cubic meter, or around £10,000 per tree. These trees are rare as the logging companies can only find one to two adult trees per hectare.  To get to these precious trees, the companies must build roads, cutting down lots of trees. Then when they find a tree they want, they cut it down, pulling down and damaging others trees in the process. Next, they drag it out to the road and load it onto a truck. Pulling down one tree damages at least 28 others in the process. They then go back in to get about 20 less valuable trees for timber, doing the same amount of damage each time. In one area there may be to logging companies, where they have to cut down 30 trees a day ach, totalling 300 trees per week or a massive 15,000 per year. Only some legal companies replace less than a third of what they took, but the illegal companies do not care. The Lorries taking the trees are relentless. Whether they are taken away by river or road, the trees all end up in the same place, the sawmill. There is said to be over 4,000 sawmills in Amazonia. In the sawmills they cut extremely thin slices of the less valuable timer, and then stick them together to make ply wood. The Amazonian hard wood is in great demand. Before, we use to exploit the tropical forests of Asia, but that supply is almost completely gone. So more and more companies have come to Amazonia, causing vast areas of damaged land.

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Another way of exploiting the forest is mining. First, they clear a huge area of forest, and then dig deep below the surface. The rocks underneath the Amazonian soil are rich in minerals such as gold, copper, iron, lead and many more. One of the big mines is translated as being called Great future, but others tell a different story. This mine now produces 3.000 tones of these precious minerals a year, compared to the 15,000 tones at its peak. They use high-pressure hoses to wash the unwanted soil away, making large ponds. Where there is unweathered rock, they employ hundreds of local people to use a pick and shovel to mine the ore out.  These people are lucky to get £10 a day. To make the tin that we use for cans, the ore is heated and ground several times. They then wash it in water, and the tin sinks to the bottom, where as all the other minerals wash away. The tin costs $6,000 a ton and is sent to factories to be made into objects like cans. There are many mines like this across the Amazon, and now places where the earth contains oil, gas and uranium are being discovered.

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Although logging and mining area both big causes of deforestation, the biggest cause so far is cattle ranching. When the government gave away free land, many took advantage, most of whom made cattle ranches. They cleared a huge area of land, so big; they have to use mobile phones to communicate. One particular ranch has 2,000 cattle in 3,000 hectares of land. Though compared to the Brazilian government standards, this is only a medium sized ranch. The neighbouring ranch has 15,000 hectares of land and s classed as a large ranch. The owners keep a specially bred type of cattle called zeboo cattle. To improve their herd, they use modern techniques and chemicals such as Artificial Insemination, where they make the females pregnant. Despite all this, there is o0nly enough beef for their own population.  After about 3 years, the soil becomes so acidic, the only thing that will grow is grass, grass so poor that even the cows don not like to eat it. As fertilizer is not available in large quantities n the area, the fields are just enlarged when the soil becomes infertile. If this continues, ranches will own a great deal of the land in Amazonia, but in Amazonia, clearing land is a way of claiming it as yours.

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The last method of exploiting the forest is farming. 10,000 small farmers picked up the offer of free land, so roads were built through the forest. Over 1,000,000 people came to the Amazon, but nothing happened. They were promised a new start in a new place, with money and fertilizer, but the Brazilian government did not live up to its promises. Many people made them selves a 50 hectare plot, but the Amazonian soil did not live up to its promises either. So most people left the plot, and cleared more land somewhere else. For the few that stayed, life is hard. They grow coffee, coco, corn rice and fruit, but only for low prices. The soil is very infertile so the crops they can grow can not live up to their potential. They get by with what they can, and even though they continually beg the companies and the government for more money, the answer is always no.

Through all this, deforestation is the key issue; it affects the climate, the environment and the indigenous people within the forest. It is said hat the Amazon rainforest will be almost completely gone in 40 years time, but the Brazilian government disagree, saying it will not be gone for at least another 300 years time. Whatever the correct figure, can we really afford to lose one of nature’s best creation? The clock is ticking and it only so long before the rainforest is gone, unless we all do something about it.

Living in the Amazon (Amazon project part 3)

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There are hundreds of tribes in the Amazon. One of them is the Jackoona tribe. They were contacted during the 16th century, and since then, their traditions have changed, although some still many remain.  

Most of the time, their main priority is food. They only have a basic diet. On land,  they grow crops using a technique called shifting cultivation. This is where they clear an area of forest, maybe a few hectares. Then they plant and grow crops around tree stumps. They keep the tree stumps because the roots will hold on to the soil making sure the nutrients doesn’t wash away when it rains because there are no trees. When the land becomes infertile, they move and clear another few hectares while the first few hectares grow back into dense forest. The cycle carries on like this, and about 30 years after they cleared the first hectares of land, those first hectares of land is now fertile and ready to clear again. In the land, they grow mainly root vegetables, pineapples, bananas and beans.

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Another source of food is fishing. Most of the fish in the Amazon are freshwater fish. This is their main source of protein. One way they fish is by hollowing out a tree to make a canoe, then canoe down the river and use a net to collect fish, and then stab them so they die or shooting fish with an arrow with deadly accuracy. Another way is to build a dam in a stream. Then, get some poison roots from a tree and slit them. Meanwhile, some women will weave some baskets out of grass. They then wave the roots in the stream. This stuns the fish so they have to come up for air. They then catch them with the baskets.

Sometimes this food is not enough. If they have any left over food they do not need they take it to the market and trade it for modern clothes and other things like guns, but they mainly rely on the surrounding environment. If one man has any bullets to shoot, he will try to kill a monkey or bird. However, the bullets are expensive and successful shots are rare.

The Jackoona build there homes on stilts to keep them safe, dry and cool. These indigenous people use everything around them without destroying their environment. They all help each other, even the children.

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Now, businesses are trying to take over. Already they have forced or killed over half a million indigenous people like the Jackoona. The Jackoona children are now being taught Portuguese, maths and other useful skills just so they can survive in the growing world that is leaving them behind.

Another tribe is the Kabocka tribe. These people are more damaging to the environment and have some very different traditions. One of these traditions is when a child has gone through puberty; they are given an alcoholic drink during a special ceremony to make them unaware of what is going on. Next, they kneel down and everyone else in the village pulls out all of the hair on there head as a punishment for their sins as a child.

Their way of cultivation plays a major part in deforestation. Unlike the Jackoona tribe, when the soil becomes infertile, they just make that cleared area of land bigger. Therefore, instead of them using it as land to grow crops, they use it as pasture for the few cattle they keep for food, but of course the pasture is rubbish as the soil is infertile and hardly anything will grow there. This technique is called slash and burn cultivation. As their area of cleared and is so huge, children as young as six have their own plot to take care of.

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Another way the Kabocka get there food is by growing a poisonous plant called manioc. They have somehow managed to work out how to extract he poison. First they peel it and but in a special weaved basket made from palm leaves to squeeze out the poisonous juice. Next, they bake it in a massive pan to make a flour like substance, which is their main source of carbohydrate.

A different Kabocka tribe live on one of the many flood plains In the Amazon. During the wet season, they cut down long grass and feed the cattle and other animals they have. They fish, but it is harder to catch lots, as there is a bigger and deeper area of water. When the water gets shallower, the use fishing as a source of income, as well as saving some as a food supply for the winter months. During the dry season, they can grow many crops as the flood brings silt onto the flood plain, putting lots of nutrients back into the soil. They often find levees (natural mounds of silt) on the riverbanks.

The indigenous people having to change. As you move further east across the Amazon, the more these once independent tribes are becoming more involved with the outside world, like becoming more involved in trade. Living in the Amazon is an ongoing struggle between them and the growing pressure from the outside world. There are still uncontacted tribes out there but how long is it before the indigenous people are forced out of the way?

Mocha Brownies

 

brownies

Ingredients

  • 55g butter (+ some for greasing the tin)
  • 115g plain chocolate
  • 175g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder or granules
  • 85g plain flour + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (or just 85g self-raising flour)
  • 55g chopped peacan nuts
  • Cocoa powder (optional)

Method:

  1. Make up the coffee with 1 tbsp hot water and leave to cool.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm-square cake tin.
  3. Gently melt the butter and chocolate together, then leave to cool.
  4. Cream together the sugar and eggs, then fold in the cooled butter/chocolate mixture and cold coffee. Sift the flour (and baking powder) and fold into the mixture, before folding in the peacan nuts.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and cook for 25-30 mins at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  6. Run a knife around the tin edge and turn the cake onto a wire rack, then peel off the lining paper and leave to cool, before lightly dusting with the cocoa powder and cutting into squares.