Charlie’s Crackin’ Curry

I love going out for a curry just as much as the next person, but when you’re trying to watch your portions and eat healthily, cooking them at home can be just as quick and easy to do – and saves on the pennies too!

It’s so quick and simple in fact, that I thought I’d share with you all my go-to homemade curry that you can chuck in the pan and job’s a good’un. It’s got great natural protein and can be tailored to your own individual preference by adding potato chunks, butternut squash and any vegetables you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely choppedFile_000 (53)
  • 1 large tin chickpeas
  • 2 packets king prawns/1 packet shrimp
  • red lentils, as many as you like
  • desiccated coconut (as much as you like)
  • 1 tin coconut milk*
  • 2-3tsp mild or medium curry powder
  • coriander (can be fresh or dried)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • grated or ground ginger, to taste
  • 2 sliced peppers
  • olive oil
  • chilli flakes (optional)

Method:

  1. Chop/prepare all the ingredients. Then fry the onions & peppers in a pan with some olive oil until the onions start to brown
  2. Add the garlic and the curry powder, mix with the oil (adding a bit more if necessary) to form a sort of paste, let it all fry for another few mins
  3. Add the coconut milk*, chickpeas, lentils and any additional spices and stir in, reducing the heat and simmering – should be a light to medium brown colour
  4. Keep stirring and add in the coconut, coriander (a chopped handful if fresh, a large sprinkle if dried) and any salt and pepper and keep seasoning to taste
  5. In the last few minutes, add in the prawns (and the chilli flakes if you fancy) and mix altogether
  6. Serve with basmati or brown rice and enjoy!

*coconut milk can also be substituted with normal milk and some curry paste, just omit the curry powder if doing so [some may prefer this to avoid the xantham gum found in tinned coconut milk]

This is one of my favourite go-to recipes when cooking for friends as it’s so easily adaptable, however it’s also perfect if you fancy a treat meal without having to compromise your diet or break the bank! If you give this a try or make some variations for yourself I’d love for you to let me know by tagging the @charlieschapter instagram in your post or dropping me a message! Hope you enjoy 🙂

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Meat the new kid at 156

File_000 (50)Today marks the official opening of Meat at 156, City Road’s newest independent burger bar; I seriously recommend you get yourself down there. Great burgers and even better milkshakes, this is one to watch!

We arrived at the bloggers launch event on Saturday night not knowing what to expect (this was my first launch event, scary but exciting!) and boy were we impressed. Very welcoming and super friendly, the staff were great fetching us anything and everything we needed. First of all we tried the milkshakes: mine was a bubblegum and my flatmate went File_005 (9)for Oreo, both were incredible! Just the right amount of creamy thickness without feeling like a dairy overload, mine was wonderfully sweet and bubblegum-like without tasting sickly, it was brilliant! The only thing could’ve made it better was the addition of some bubblegum flavour millions sweets and that would be the dream… My flatmate went for the Oreo milkshake to begin and this, again, was amazing. Often you can find that Oreo milkshakes are too bitty with biscuit chunks and these can be too big to fit in the straw etc (all together a bit of a faff) but this wasn’t the case at Meat at 156. These were ones that Kelis was talking about… hands-down the best milkshakes we’ve ever had and would 100% go back again for these alone – honestly go give them a try!

Next was a burger and chips each: The Texan consisted of a beef patty with cheddar cheese, hickory BBQ sauce and fried onion rings – it was a beast! The meat was succulent and all the ingredients worked perfectly together I’m told, so top marks for this one. Mine was a Meat At Signature burger with two Quorn patties, American cheese and the Meat At signature sauce. Deeelish.
I’ve always wondered why restaurants don’t seem to serve Quorn, I’d rather that than some of the sad excuses of veggie burgers I’ve had before (you know, the ones that are literally just some potato and frozen veg shoved together in breadcrumbs), I think it’s brill! The signature sauce had little bits of coleslaw-type crunchiness in it and definitely made the burger, I can’t figure out what exactly it was and I don’t want to, just trust me it was lush. Will definitely be having again! The chips came along in cute little baskets and were just the right kind of skinny fries without the excessive saltiness that you can sometimes get from certain popular fast-food restaurants (not naming any names). Also, you can’t beat a cracking coleslaw on the side. Altogether, despite normally being a sweet potato fries fan all-the-way, this really hit the spot.

File_003 (11)Speaking of fries, the dirty fries next appeared on our table. A plate of them covered in a cottage-style cheese that I was a big fan of, BBQ sauce and some smoked paprika for a bit of spice. Following burgers and milkshakes, the other speciality of this brand new hotspot is steaks and I’m told they’re incredible. Perfectly tender with a great range of sauces available, they arrived on a platter with grilled tomatoes, a grilled mushroom, a corn on the cob and another basket of fries. My Quorn substitute was two Quorn patties and two spicy Quorn sausages and went really well the black pepper sauce, although corn on the cob is one of my all time favourites so this kinda stole the show for me for this course! Seriously though, if you’re a steak fan this is 100% worth a try!

And for the grand finale: dessert. Now this, was a dream. The chocolate brownies [photo above courtesy of the Meat at 156 twitter – I was too busy scoffing it down] had a crumbly outside and luxury gooey soft centre, making them perfect for everyone no matter your texture preference (mine was gooey, my flatmate’s was crumbly). Served with a side of smooth ice cream you’re onto a winner! Alternatively, if you’re not a chocoholic there was also a lovely warm sticky toffee pudding that contrasted perfectly with the ice cream to leave me very happy indeed and verrrry full! Would definitely recommend.

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Myself enjoying the food! (Excuse rabbit hands)

All in all, it was a great evening of great food, I definitely walked (waddled) away about four times the size! If you’re after somewhere new and a bit different then try City Road’s latest, it opens officially to the public tonight! Great burgers, great steak, the best milkshakes. What’s not to love?!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Wonderful Welsh Heritage at The Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon

Cultural heritage is something to be proud of wherever you come from. This weekend, we decided to tick one of my many Welsh adventures off the list and go explore The Big Pit National Coal Museum up in Blaenavon – and we had the best time!

The weather kept changing its mind between momentary glorious sunshine and overcast with outbursts of rain but nontheless, the scenery was beautiful – The Big Pit is actually located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My proud little Welshman stood gazing lovingly over his homeland and I can’t deny that I felt proud to be an honorary Welshie. My own family has mining history too back up in County Durham, so it filled me with questions to ask my mother and grandad when I next see them; it was so interesting learning about stuff that’s so relevant to your own life and background yet still so fresh in historical terms. Anyway, back to the museum & tour itself.


Rob and the other tour guys we can’t speak highly enough of; so friendly and chatty and so so knowledgeable about their subject being ex-miners themselves. They carefully strapped our harnesses & headlights on and locked away our valuables before we squished like sardines into the lift, ready to go below-ground (very authentic). Rob went on to tell us how fast this lift was descending and how much faster it would’ve been back in the day – and still is in other much deeper mines – as well as how many would fit into one of these lifts in a typical day, which alone was enough to make me glad not to have to do it everyday!

At the bottom lay one of the trucks the horses used to pull through the mines, 72 of which resided at The Big Pit, each truck carrying 1 tonne of coal which was sent up to the surface and away to peoples’ homes. These horses were allowed out ‘on holiday’ for 2 weeks of the year and the rest of their lives were spent underground working the mines. I’m not a big fan of horses but the extremity of the constantly damp conditions and fellow resident rodents down there gave me a huge respect for these animals, lugging tonnes and tonnes of coal miles through the mines day after day.
On top of that, children as young as 5 were sent down to work in the mines opening and closing the ventilation doors, until at about 9 years old they were old enough to work the mine face itself. Young girls weren’t exempt it turns out; their job was to crawl on hands and knees up and down the steep mine faces tugging along a trolley which men could dispatch their coal into, so I can only imagine how heavy it must’ve gotten and how realistically quite terrifying that must’ve been, crawling on your own through sweaty older men all day. (This is in fact why young girls were banned from working the mines some years later – it was deemed inappropriate for them to be around men who were often half or almost fully naked due to the heat of working at the deep coal faces at such a young age and I can’t say I disagree).

Rob said to us “hold your hand out in front of your faces and when I count to three, turn your headlamps off. 1, 2, 3.” Darkness. And I mean seriously: Pitch. Black.
When you think about it, when was the last time you truly couldn’t see anything? Not even the tiniest fleck of light or at least the outline of your hand in front of you? If it hadn’t have been attached to me I can honestly say I’d have had no idea where my hand was, and I can imagine after hours on end of this darkness which the children on the doors went through I definitely think I’d have been going mad and starting to lose it. We were told that the shift patterns were 12 hours long both for the men and the children, meaning that in the winter these miners never saw daylight; so much of their lives were spent underground that these horses became their children and these fellow men became their family. The camaraderie that stems from such close-knit communities in such extreme conditions is something that always remains truly admirable to me and something totally key to survival, I imagine. A problem shared is a problem halved an’ all that.

Further along the line came a small railway track which the carts were transported through the mines on once the demand became higher than the horses could physically take. This was incredible in itself because of the way it was operated: one child would be placed at the top of the track and the other would go along the track with the cart to the coal face – which could have been miles and miles away. Once full, the child with the cart would simply squeeze together two electrical wires running along the wall adjacent to the track, generating a bell ringing at the other end so the other child knew when to withdraw the cart. These electrical wires themselves were live, including those Rob showed us on the day, which if they sparked when methane gas was present (a by-product of coal extraction) led to potentially huge explosions within the mine itself. This was sadly the case with the Senghenydd colliery disaster of 1913 which killed 439 miners, men and children alike. As cliché as it sounds, this really brought it home for us as we stood in a mine… surrounded by people… underground… almost pitch black… nearest exit literally miles away…

File_000 (49)As I said, heritage is so important. When something really relates to your own now privileged life it not only makes it so so interesting but also so so real. Back at the surface there were several other reality checks such as the showers and lockers with personal stories and contents within them that really made everything so touching and inspiring. My boyfriend was beaming with excitement the entire time and even came out of there wanting to be a miner for crying out loud… but the sense of pride in their work was what was really touching; these men went to work day after day after day knowing that their suffering and intense hard work was fuelling a growing nation, heating homes and powering trains, driving the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom which we have relied upon to develop our lifestyle today. This pride shone through from Rob and the other ex-miner tour guides and really made the day for us, we had the utmost respect for these guys; they were there, they lived this.

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Sadly, I couldn’t buy these due to card machine problems but look how cute they are!

I’d really recommend a trip to The Big Pit National Coal Museum if you’re ever in South Wales, or perhaps you live here and you’ve just not had chance to go yet. It’s free entry just like the other National Museums in Wales, though there are donation boxes around the place and a lovely cute shop at the end filled with Welsh-ness; local beers, Welsh silver jewellery, cheese and chopping boards (above), that sort of thing. You also don’t need good weather for the underground bit, just make sure you’ve got a few layers on cos it can get pretty chilly down there. There’s just so much to see and learn about we were absolutely fascinated; I think it’s so important to understand and appreciate these things, history is a part of us after all.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*featured image courtesy of Visit Wales