Category: Europe

Beef Goulash Recipe

Beef Goulash, photo by JMorton

I think the best way to eat beef is by slow cooking it in stew or casserole to make every sinew mouth-wateringly soft especially when using cheap cuts of meat.

Goulash is a Hungarian national dish. This dish is a history in itself.

During the 9th century, goulash or rather gulyas was a staple of Hungarian herdsmen, looking after the cattle.  They used to eat cuts of beef boiled with vegetables.  The word gulyas actually means herdsmen.

Then came the 15th century and the invasion of the Ottoman Turks.  The Turks introduced paprika to Hungary.

Hungary loved paprika.

They embraced paprika into their cuisine in such a big way.   Gulyas got the paprika treatment, which we know now as goulash.

To cook an authentic goulash, be generous with the paprika.

Recipe to follow and the postulant cook is experimenting!




Europe: Should We Go or Should We Stay?

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Europe: Should We Go or Should We Stay?

Yep, we received by post our copy of the Government wasteful spending of tax-payers’ money. The Government’s bias pamphlet on why we should stay in the European Union cost £9Million, which should have been better invested in the ailing NHS and schools which are now UNABLE to cope with the burgeoning population, putting everyone in danger in the long run.

Schools have to cope with children who do not speak English, thus, taking so much time of teachers.

The Government should let the people decide by giving impartial information of the pros and the cons of staying in Europe rather than a carte blanche, we have to stay or we will live in chaos if we leave the Europe Union!!!

It makes you think: “How did we manage to carry on before Europe?” Why did we vote for the Conservative Party, who seems to accept that outside the European Union, the UK will be left floundering!

Anyway, exercise your right on Thursday, 23 June 2016. Vote for or against staying in European Union by thinking things through. Are we better or worst outside?

Autumn Foretold

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who sith: ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all nor be afraid!’
– Robert Browning

Today, being the 1st September means, in the UK, autumn is just around the corner as we would normally say; tree leaves coloration begins to show autumn as being foretold!

With climate changes our summer sometimes lasts longer with September & October, traditional autumn months, are still quite warm and sunny, (we call this having an Indian summer) so the autumnal changes we see can be delayed.

This late afternoon Jean & I were walking home from Golders Green (NW London), it is a pleasant 15-20 minute walk for us, for a bit of exercise 😉

Ever vigilant for good photo opportunities, Jean noticed one tree that had a few leaves turning autumnal colours among the verdant green of the remaining leaves making quite a contrast. I had brought my trusty camera with me and so I took a few shots.

Autumn Foretold

autumn foretold

Autumn Foretold by PH Morton

Autumn Foretold by PH Morton

As I guess most school pupils learn in science or biology/botany lessons, the reason for the dramatic change in deciduous tree leaves are due to the approach of winter.
in order for the trees to survive the long cold dark winter months they must almost hibernate and cease using energy on green leaf production and the sun light needed to produce the trees sustenance via photosynthesis will be in short supply.

A leaf contains an abundance of chlorophyll.

Trying not to bore any dear reader;)

There large amount of chlorophyll in an active leaf masks the other pigment colours. Light regulates chlorophyll production, so as autumn days grow shorter, less chlorophyll is produced. As As chlorophyll amounts start to decline, so the green colour starts to fade from leaves.

Within the leaf, There is as surge of sugar concentrations cause increased production of anthocyanin pigments. Leaves containing primarily anthocyanins will appear red. Carotenoids are another class of pigments found in some leaves. Carotenoid production is not dependent on light, so levels aren’t diminished by shorter days. Carotenoids can have colours of orange, yellow, or red, but most of these pigments found in leaves are yellow. Leaves with good amounts of both anthocyanins and carotenoids will appear orange. tannins in a leaf are responsible for the brownish color of some oak leaves.

Robins our Garden Guardians


As spring turns into summer in the UK, we have enjoyed the budding flowers and trees. Also the first visits to our gardens  of a family favourite, the robin red breast bird.

The European robins (Erithacus rubecula) are descended from Old World Fly catcher birds Muscicapidae.  

A robin  will select a particular garden to live, feed and sometimes nest.

They prefer a garden that has lots of bushes and plants  for them to hide and live in & also provides supplies of ready insects, worms, slugs and snails for their meals.

Robins are fiercely territorial and will sometimes fend off intruding birds to ‘their’ garden.

Every year, we enjoy seeing our cheeky little garden robin hopping about among our bushes and plants. They are also not aversed to having a bath on the running falls by our pond.

He/she is not scared or wary of us and follows us about when we are in our garden,  He or she would remain still watching me mow the lawn and he would happily dart down curiously to the freshly cut grass.

I photographed our robin last week, then yesterday while sitting in my mate Mick’s garden, we saw and I photographed his garden robin 🙂

Our garden Robin

Our Garden Robin!, Photo by PH Morton

Classic pose for the Robin in my friends back garden

Classic pose for the Robin in my friends back garden. @ Mick’s garden, Photo by PH Morton



Commandaria (Nama) ~ Greek Wine

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Commandaria (Nama) ~ Greek Wine

Look what I found hiding at the back of the shelves of our wine cabinet, a couple of bottles of 25 years old Commandaria wines, which we bought from Cyprus 15 years ago. Commandaria is a sweet dessert wine which taste a bit like sherry.

We bought these Commandaria wines near a monastery in Cyprus. I remember having to put a makeshift skirt from a scarf to cover up my bare legs in order to be allowed to tour the monastery which housed beautiful icons and artifacts.

After the tour, we bought lots of lovely cypriot laces, embroidered tablecloths and matching napkins and of course the commandaria.

Commandaria is so popular in Cyprus. Apparently commandaria or Nama as it was originally called is drunk in bucketloads during the feast day of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who we knew was born off the sea of Cyprus.

As early as 700 BC, the farming poet, Hesiod, described how Nama was made. First of, the red and white grapes are dried in the sun for at least a couple of weeks. The wine made from these dried grapes was stored in great earthenware jars and left to ferment until the desired potency or taste was achieved! It was previously believed that this red dessert wine had healing properties.

Modern way of fermenting the wine no longer use earthenware jars but leave the wine to mature using oak cask.

As mentioned above, the original name of the wine was Nama but after the Knights Templars took over and controlled an island in Cyprus which was called Commandaria, the popular nama was renamed Commandaria. And this happened more than 800 years ago, which makes Commandaria the oldest existing name for a particular wine.

Peter had a big glass of Commandaria over Christmas but he found it too sweet.

I had a bit and must admit I am rather partial to it (I like the taste) but in small measure.

Christmas Decor: Christmas Tree


Artificial trees at John Lewis Photo by JMorton

Christmas Decor: Christmas Tree

It is widely believe that the Christmas tree started in Germany. Early Christians would bring in decorated trees inside their houses.

Apparently it was Martin Luther, credited for Protestant Reformation, who first decorated the Christmas tree with candles.

It is said that one winter evening, Martin Luther was deep in thought about his sermon when he  happen to look up and saw the lights of twinkling stars reflected between branches of trees.

Martin was in absolute awe.

He brought in a tree in his house and wired the branches to hold in the lit candles so his family can see what he saw and so admired.

That was the beginning of Christmas light.

Every year, Oslo in Norway gifts the British people with a huge Christmas tree which is erected at Trafalgar Square. Oslo has been presenting the UK with a Christmas tree since 1947 as a show of their gratitude to the British during World Ward II.

If you happen to be near Trafalgar Square, the decorated tree can be seen from the beginning of December to the 6th of January.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

24 Carrots Facts (or More)

Carrots, photo by JMorton

24 Carrots Facts (or More)

Did you know?

The original colour of carrots was purple.  There were also black ones, white ones, yellow ones and red ones.

The orange carrot was bred by the Dutch in order to match it to their royalty, the House of Orange.

The carrot was first grown as something medicinal.

You can make tea out of the leaves of carrots which apparently is good for the sufferer of gout.

There is also some findings that for a smoker to eat even just a carrot a day could half his risk of lung cancer.

Eating too much carrots can turn you orange.

Carrot contains a level of beta carotene for protection against sun damage.

Multi-coloured Baby Carrots, Photo by JMorton

These baby carrots are ideal for raw snack.  Healthy and delicious.  Aim to eat 1/2 cup carrots a day.  They are beneficial health-wise in the reduction of wide range of cancers as well as inflammation conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Planet-hunter Plato the choice

With the exciting prospect of many new planets out side of our own home solar system  being found, we need more probes to zero in extra solar  planets (exoplanets) that orbit their parent sun in the habitable zone (also known as the Goldilocks Zone-not too hot, not too cold) where liquid water may exists  and being the main precursor  to life.

The BBC science news reports:

A telescope to find thousands of planets beyond our Solar System is the hot favourite for selection as Europe’s next medium-class science mission.

Known as Plato, the concept was chosen by an expert panel as the standout candidate in a competition run by the European Space Agency (Esa).

Impression of Plato concept by Thales Alenia Space

  • Design calls for a suite of 34 telescopes to be mounted on one satellite
  • Mission should confirm and characterise hundreds of rocky worlds
  • Would have the sensitivity also to detect the planets’ moons and rings
  • Intricate measurements of the host stars would yield key information
  • To launch from French Guiana on a Soyuz rocket in 2023/2024
  • Plato would be stationed 1.5m km from Earth on its “nightside”


The Paris-based organisation’s Science Policy Committee will now have the final say at its meeting in February.

If given the go-ahead, Plato would probably not launch until 2024.

The name of the mission is an acronym that stands for PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars.

It is not really one telescope but rather a suite of 34 telescopes mounted on a single satellite.

The intention is for Plato to sweep about half the sky, to investigate some of its brightest and nearest stars.

It would monitor these stars for the tell-tale tiny dips in light that occur when planets move across their faces.

Critically, Plato would be tuned to seek out rocky worlds orbiting in the “habitable zone” – the region around a star where water can keep a liquid state.

A fundamental part of its quest would be to perform an intricate study of the host stars themselves, using their pulsations to probe their structure and properties.

Such observations, referred to as astroseismology, would provide key, complementary information for the proper characterisation of the rocky worlds.

Although, other missions have pursued this kind of science before, Plato is described as a major leap forward in capability.

The hope is that it could find really promising targets for follow-up by the big ground-based telescopes due to come online in the next decade.

These facilities, which will have primary mirrors measuring tens of metres in diameter, should be able to examine the atmospheres of distant worlds for possible life signatures.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, due for launch at the end of this decade, would likely still be working in 2024/2025 and could also pursue Plato’s discoveries.

Artist's impression of an exoplanetThe goal is to find planets like the Earth, not just in terms of their size but in their potential for habitability

Plato has spent the past two years in an assessment process that has pitted it against four other concepts.

All were vying for the third medium-class launch opportunity to be offered under Esa’s so-called Cosmic Vision programme, which defines the organisation’s space science priorities.

“Medium class” means a cost to the agency of no more than about 600m euros (£490m; $820m), although following the practice of previous missions this does not include the budget for instruments.

These are usually provided directly by Esa’s national member agencies and mean the final price tag can approach one billion euros.

All the competitors were invited to make a final presentation to representatives of the scientific community, industry, and national member agencies on 21 January. This was followed by closed-session discussions by two working groups, which rated the quality of the missions.


Artist's impression of an exoplanet
  • Planets beyond our Solar System are often given the term ‘exoplanet’
  • More than 1,000 have been detected to date using several techniques
  • But many of these worlds are large planets believed to resemble Jupiter or Neptune
  • Many gas giants have been found to be orbiting very close to their stars
  • It has prompted new ideas to describe the formation and evolution of solar systems

Their recommendations were then passed to Esa’s top space science advisory committee (SSAC) to make an evaluation.

It proposed that Plato be carried forward as the mission of choice, and this preference has now been sent on by Esa’s executive to the SPC. The committee has the prerogative of “selection” at its 19 February gathering, and could still reject Plato – but this would be a major surprise.

The final green light is known as “adoption” in Esa-speak. This is unlikely to happen until 2015, after member states have made firm commitments on their participation and an industrial team to build the satellite has been identified.

One big industrial contribution from the UK seems assured. This would be the camera detector at the base of the telescope suite.

Supplied by e2v in Chelmsford, the array of more than 130 charge-coupled devices would be 0.9 square metres in area.

This would make it the largest camera system ever flown in space, and twice the size of the array e2v produced for Esa’s recently launched Gaia telescope.

The first two medium-class missions to be selected under Esa’s Cosmic Vision programme in 2011 were Solar Orbiter, a space telescope to study the Sun, to launch in 2017; and Euclid, a telescope to investigate “dark energy”, to fly in 2020.

The American space agency (Nasa) plans a similar mission to Plato calledTess (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) in 2017, but the specifications mean that its rocky worlds will probably be in closer orbits around lower-mass stars than the discoveries made by the European project. In other words, the Plato planets are more likely to be in the habitable zones of more Sun-like stars.

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