Tuesday, 30 November 2010

'Lovely things sweetie-darling, lovely things...'

As promised piccies of the 'lovely things' [wish I could remember which episode that was from!] that I purchased in Brixham. Excuse the quality of the 3rd photo - I was trying to take it quickly before naughty Zeke stole off with the bauble!
Brilliant metal items - I love this kind of 'stamped' look to stuff and I think the green tag will stick out nicely on my bare branches tree this chrimble.
Next up the pretty felt star with beads, they had birds in this style as well but I liked this best. In fact it's probably more a snowflake than a star, very pretty either way.These are the clay hangers and the glass bauble I got from the RNLI fair - 20p - bargainous!
Finally my cosy hat. Very pleased with this. I do have an idea to knit my own at some point but learning how to and all that jazz first might be advantageous! Meanwhile it's winter already so this was a fine purchase IMO. :-)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Brass Monkeys in Brixham

At the weekend we visited Brixham for the Christmas Market. My it was blimmin' parky with a howling East wind whistling off the sea and up through the narrow streets of this small fishing town. No snow though so let's be thankful for that.
The market was in a big marquee so we were sheltered whilst in there, it was pretty busy as well so not too chilly. There were craft stalls, cakes, cheese, deli products, clothes and some parrots! Many lovely handmade items and I was really pleasantly surprised at the prices.
I realised once we got there that I haven't actually thought about who I need to get anything for but we enjoyed browsing round, starting off with a mulled wine and mince pie from local concern, the Lytehouse. This is a coffee shop / bar which is on the high street of Brixham. [According to the link they specialise in Tapas but as we only saw them at the stall I can't comment on that.] I can vouch for the friendly nature of the guy who served us though, who I presume is the owner. Thanks!
Wandering round I soon spotted some 'lovely things' [see 'Absolutely Fabulous' for why I would put this in '_'s] and after asking took this photo. The lady asked me if I was planning on making some but instead I bought some from her - they were only £1 each after all!
Next spot was these lovely metal tags, also £1 each and from the same stall some silver metal stars and hearts ornaments at a grand 50p a go. I'll have to post a pic of those tomorow.
We also got some cheeses - Cornish Yarg and Devon Blue from 'Cheezeboard' and some indian bite things (bhaji, pakora &c) from 'The Veggie Deli' stall, along with a frozen nut roast in a foil box for Sunday roast. Oh - and another ornament; a pretty filigree cut felt star with little beads inset for a grand total of 75p. Another pic for tomorrow.
Leaving the marquee there was a seond small market on in a nearby hall - this one all in aid of the RNLI and complete with brass band. That did make me feel nice and festive I must admit.
I've been on the look out for a hat in recent weeks, favouring something quite plain. There were some hand knitted ones on a stall but on closer inspection they either had chunky cable patterns on, or an edge of bright pink (not me) or a massive fluffy bobble (also really not me) that put me off them. Then - tadaa - a nice cream number with a little red stripe was unearthed near the bottom of the pile and - well, I'm now fully hat-equipped. Damn - another pic for tomorrow as well then! This hat was the grand cost of £1.50 which I think is pretty bloody good for a hand made brand new item. Gotta love those charity old ladies. Couple of other bits I got was a jar of quince jelly (£1.50) and a pretty silver bauble (20p) along with some little satin ones for re-purposing (55p). All in all not a bad haul.
We had a fun day even if Brixham was; as mentioned, decidedly on the chilly side thanks to the wind. [I was very glad of my new hat by the end.] As we wondered round the town I spotted some of those things that make you pause and smile and thought I'd share them with you.
Lobster on the roof of a seafood cafe:
Cow outside the butchers:
Who would want to cycle up this??!
Finally; some heartfelt graffiti. If you live anywhere frequented by seagulls you can appreciate the sentiment!! :-D

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bit sharp down South

Nippy walk to work this morning but look how beautiful it is. The sun catching the frost on the grass and sparkling like fresh jewels reminds us that though we may not be fans of the cold 'tis a necessary part of the seasons.
Reminds me of the bright colours and sparkles of xmas tree decorations as well; really thinking that with a month to go I must get some preparations done...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Phone loss and distress caused thereof

Now the reason we have no lovely photographic images to accompany the last post about Jamie's Italian is in fact twofold. Firstly - the lighting was a little dim - sorry 'mood' - in the restaurant so phone images would have been very poor quality. I in fact had a different image from my Brighton trip to accompany the post. However; my return to Exeter and a night out on Saturday brought the theft/loss of my phone. I'm honestly not sure which as it disappeared from the front pocket of my bag; which suggests theft, but it was ringing up to Sunday arvo, which suggests loss. We re-visited the bar on the Sunday though and rang it and couldn't hear it anywhere so it's now 'black-listed' to prevent use and I have a replacement SIM card on its way.
Now - loss of phone reminds one that whereas we used to memorise many phone numbers now we rely on our handsets to do it. I used mine as my alarm clock too, in common with many. It had a 2gb card in with lots of images on - luckily most of which are on the pc. We have become lazy in our reliance on gadgetry and now - well I am rueing this to a certain extent. Hey ho. Sadly I'll have to go back to the old handset on which the camera is atrocious. The whole reason I bought the lost handset was for the camera which was 5mp and ok in decent light and meant it was always to hand for images for this 'ere blog. [Incidentally it was cack as an actual phone. LG for the record.]
Must get myself back in the habit of carrying my camera at all times - I missed a brilliant picture opportunity on Sunday [that had me reaching for my phantom phone] when we visited the Hourglass for a late afternoon pint. I was trying to see what beers were on pump and my view was obscured by the furry behind of the pub cat! Anyway - sounds like an excuse for a repeat visit to me! This is a gem of a backstreet boozer; the sort you imagine existed in droves in a certain era for the working man to whet his whistle on the way home. This has survived I would say based on it's reputation for great food as it's become quite gastro in it's menu offerings, good beers, friendly and eclectic staff / clientele / interior and a great range of single malts behind the bar. It was several years living here before someone shared the secret with me I know that!
[TBH this picture wasn't taken there but they have served this beer there in the past. Tenuous? Maybe...]

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Celeb chef Italian

So on Thursday we chose Italian for dinner at Jamie's Italian on Black Lion Street in Brighton. This is a Jamie Oliver place but contrary to my expectations it wasn't too exorbitantly priced (for the area) and was in fact very good food. Service was good apart for a long wait to start with before our drinks order was taken.
Being completely incapable of choosing [I can be very indecisive when it comes to picking off menus if there's a modicum of things I can actually go for. And I mean very indecisive!] I actually went for 2 starter portions of different pasta dishes. I was very happy to see squid ink pasta on the menu; squid ink is one of those things I've been keeping an eye out for, in order to try it. This was Scallop with Squid Ink Angel Hair and the pasta was divine. Somehow I expected the squid ink to have a fairly intense flavour - down to the strong colour I suppose. It was in fact far more subtle than I expected and really rather good. Eating with 5 others; all meat eaters [variously tucking into pheasant, pork belly and lamb] it was pronounced the best dish at the table. Angel hair is like an even thinner spaghetti so when it's coloured black as this one was it can look quite odd but trust me - this is well worth going for if you should stumble across it on a menu. The scallops were gorgeous as scallops always are; they were sliced and scattered over the top so you didn't get masses of them but this was the starter portion.
I should mention that we were all trying each other's dishes - although not the meat for me. The Braised Fennel side was also very good but the chips; I have to say, weren't a patch on HFW's on my recent visit to the River Cottage Refectory.
The second pasta dish was the Mushroom Panzerotti. A lovely dish in it's own right although it couldn't compete with the squid number. This panzerotti was basically a large crescent shaped ravioli thing - think pasta parcel. It was served with gremolata which I have to admit to not knowing what it was but our resident Italian speaker at the table cleared that up for me. This version had tomato notes as well as being topped with fried sage - deffo a chef-y touch that IMO did nothing for the actual dish.
All in all if you like Italian I don't think you'd be disappointed there but that comes with the caveat that I have never actually been to Italy to sample the cuisine in it's home environs, as it were. I had a lovely and filling meal although you may have noticed there are no photos of it.
That however will have to be a story for tomorrow...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Not bright in Brighton

In fact it's wet, cold and windy; in no particular order. Here for 3 days for work. Mind you when I left Exeter 0n the 6.51 am train yesterday morning it was lashing it down and blowing a gale there as well. At least it wasn't Cornwall!
Crossing London on the underground I was struck again by the disparity between the stations. Some I went through, like Baker Street have the odd heartening touch to them, like this set of wooden doors topped with a pleasingingly vintage looking station name sign. [Excuse the bad quality of the pic; mobile + poor lighting in the underground station = bad photos.] This is actually where the fire extinguishers reside, slumbering in quiet state until their day for action should come. It's a pleasing sight compared to the brick austerity of Great Portland Street with it's arches of dirty yellow brick topped with an even dirtier plastic fascia in which the old globe shaped lights bob incongruously, nervous that their grimy victorian slumber has been imposed upon in this way. Then comes Euston Square with it's theme of white toilet tiles. At least it looks cleaner I suppose. Kings Cross with small square mosaic tiles; disappointingly also white, interspersed with dour grey facing. A little effort please London Underground!
Having hit Brighton and been in meetings all day I met colleagues for dinner in the lobby of their hotel - the Hilton. Now I know it's Brighton but a brief glance at the bar menu reveals a club sandwich consisting of bacon, letttuce, tomato, egg and chicken will set you back £12.30 here - eek! I don't know, maybe you're paying for the piped in string music...
We ate in the Good Friend Chinese Restaurant on Preston Street. There's 2 menu's; one just in English with more of the 'everyday' dishes you see in a Chinese in the UK. The other is in Chinese and English and has some more 'exotic' [to me] but perhaps more traditionally Chinese dishes on it. These include intestines, feet and suchlike. Whilst I declined to go for the 'Stewed Duck's Webs with Fish Lips' [:-O] I had a very good hotpot of Dried Shrimp, Glass Noodles and Chinese Vegetables. I'd recommend this venue, and do try something a little different from your normal! Next time I'm here I'm determined to go for the stir fried Morning Glory. Yep - the plant; at least I presume it is!! :-D

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Rescuing the Ash-e-jow, or a blow-by-blow account of the spices in my cupboard

Not all the spices in the cupboard though - I'm realising there's a few too many in there!

You may recall I wasn't so enamoured with this Persian soup I made last Sunday. I thought it was bland and needed some flavours to 'lift' it. In no particular order and with no quantites then I added:
Cayenne Pepper
More Turmeric
Garam Masala
Ground Coriander
Mushroom ketchup - it needed some 'depth' to the flavour
A good 6+ tbsp tomato puree - the concentrated kind from a tube
Ground cinnamon - a little only - got this idea after reading a comment online from a similarly disatisfied maker
Lime juice - ditto

This turned this into a deeper, complex and warming dish, with a little fresh edge from the lime juice. Very nice indeed and considering I didn't measure anything pretty well judged on the warmth from the Cayenne front. It was probably a couple of sprinkles / sploshes of each thing; other than those specified.
I wouldn't make the straight Ash-e-jow again but I'd use the pearl barley with these flavours for a rib sticking warming winter stew.

Poor pun part 2, or 'Souper Sunday - The Return!'

The second soup I made is a good one to use up veg and cheese languishing in the fridge. The recipe is here, and incidentally the man behind that site wrote the very useful 'Vegetable Growing Month by Month' which I can thoroughly recommend along with this soup recipe from his wife.

Leek, Spud & Stilton Soup
2 small onions
2 fat cloves garlic
2 big leeks
1 large potato
Bouquet Garni
0.5 pint buttermilk [put 1tbsp lemon juice in glass and fill to half pint with milk then let stand for a few mins]
1.5 pints veg stock
4 oz stilton - crumbled

Put EVOO in big pan and put on low-med heat. 1-2 tbsps-ish.
Chop onions and crush and chop garlic and add to pan.
Chop leeks - washing free of grit as necessary, and add.
Cook for a few minutes to soften. 5-10 should do it nicely.
Peel spud if wanted - I actually did this time rather than have bits of skin in the soup. Chop into smallish chunks and add to pot.
Add Bouquet Garni [recipe said bay leaves but I was out] and a good grind of black pepper.
Add milk / buttermilk and bring to boil.
Add veg stock and return to boil.
Simmer covered for 15 mins until potatoes and veg soft.
Add cheese and stir in.
Blend in batches, unless your FP is huge!
Taste and add salt if necessary.
A winner - as previously mentioned on yesterdays post I've made this before. I love leek and potato soup - it's one of my faves and the addition of stilton here gives it a nice flavour without being overpowering. Thick and creamy whilst only actually having half a pint of milk in [mine's semi-skimmed] this is pretty healthy. A good winter soup you could add extra stock or make with just stock and no milk as a lighter option for summer. It's very good chilled too - as I discovered when taking from fridge to bowl to microwave for lunch at work. Yum!
Pic of both soups - as you can see the Iranian Barley one turned out pretty thick rather than 'soup' like. More stew consistency but in the winter that's no bad thing.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Souper Sunday!

I know, I know, I should be writing for a parish magazine with titles like that eh? It's more of a wry nod to Red Dwarf than a crap pun all of my own though, honest.
Anyway, I made 2 lots of soup on Sunday; an Iranian Barley soup and a Leek, Potato and Stilton one. The Iranian one I've been meaning to try for some time whereas the other's a recipe I've made before and I had leeks to be used up in the fridge. As the barley effort takes a long time simmering I thought I could make the other in between as it were. I'll post them seperately to avoid any confusion though. Most likely mine rather than yours... ;-p

Ash-e-jow, Iranian barley soup
2 tbsp EVOO
2 onions
1 litre veg stock*
0.5 litre water*
0.5 tsp black pepper
1tsp turmeric
1tbsp parsley - dried [or mint but I used parsley]
1 cup pearl barley
0.5 cup lentils [I used green]

Put oil in big soup pan and put on low-medium heat. Chop onions and add to oil.
Put kettle on.
Cook onions for a few mins to soften.
*Recipe calls for plain water but I was a little concerned at that as I thought it may give a bit of a bland dish so I made mine with 1.5l water and 2 cubes designed to make 450ml (or near enough 0.5l) stock each. So in essence 1 litre veg stock and 0.5 litre plain boiling water. Whichever way you want to do it add this now. [You may want to try with 1 stock cube and taste further on in the cooking process to see if you think it needs the second cube. I used Quixo veg stock cubes from Aldi as seen in this pic, I find they're not so distinctive in flavour as Oxo's. Previously discussed here and since down in price to a bargainous 65p for 12.]
Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and simmer covered or 1.5 hours. Stir every so often.
Expect it to get thick and frankly not very soup like to my western eye.
Hmm - I was hoping for more from this I must admit. It was nice and simple so bonus points there - another time-frugal thing really, though you must stir it so it doesn't stick on the bottom of the pan. I just thought it a bit lacking on flavour really, it needs something extra. Looking at some reviews on another site it seems some people agree with me. What I may try is adding the half tin of chopped toms I've got in the fridge and some extra spices with a squeeze of lemon and see what that gives us. Hey ho, we have to try these things!

Time frugal cooking - spudato wedges

An easy standby to knock up then bang in the oven. Ok - it's about an hour from start to finish so Jamie's 30 Minute Meals this aint but unlike his where you spend the entire 30 minutes cooking; [personally I'm skeptical; and a little tired of him telling me to "get your 30 minute meal head on" - ok Jamie, just get the brand tattooed on your forhead why don't you then you wouldn't have to keep mentioning it. Also - perhaps think that some of us may watch more than one episode therefore can remember from one to the next to get ourselves ready] this is more like 5-10 prep then walk away - wedges FTW time wise!! [Sorry - bit of a sidetrack mini-rant there.]
It's incredibly simple so I feel a bit of a fraud calling this a 'recipe' - more like a base plan or blueprint to then adapt at will. Much like a lot of my 'cooking' [making it up as you go along]. :-D

Potato Wedges
Seasonings / herbs / spices to your taste

Put oven on to preheat - Gas 6. [In case you hadn't noticed there's a handy link to a conversion chart on the right bar.]
Wash spuds. Do not peel. There's enough ways to waste our life time out there already [eg ironing] let's not let peeling veg be one of them.
Chop into 6-10 wedges depending on spud size. I generally look at spud stood on 'end' and chop it half down through the longest axis. Then lay each half flat and slice into wedges. See pic.
Wow - realised this really is me teaching y'all how to suck eggs. Just slice your spud into wedges - you know how to do that.
In a bowl large enough to take all the spuds with room for stirring about splosh some EVOO -amount dep's on amount of spuds you're doing.
Add S+P and your choice of seasonings. I used seasoned salt, cayenne and some ground coriander but this would work with most spice combos or herbs and a sprinkling of lemon juice; either fresh or bottled. Any flavours you like the taste of basically. I like the cayenne for a little warming kick, especially this time of year!
Spread out on a baking sheet/tray - try and get in a single layer, then chuck in the oven. Full cooking time will vary depending on your wedge size and how crispy you like your spuds but you're looking at 40 mins plus. Turn approx half way though. It's not the end of the world if you don't though!

I'm afraid we scarfed these all up before it occurred to me to take a pic but if you've never seen a potato wedge before; well frankly - get making some!! Easy, time frugal as you can be getting on doing other things whilst they cook, and cost frugal too.

And remember: "Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so." Douglas Adams

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Full Brekkie Pancake - you saw it here first!

Having a hankering for pancakes (savoury, not the sweet kind) for breakfast I started thinking - why not just include the mushrooms and cheese in the mix rather than adding after and then rolling as I would normally do. Thus was the Full Brekkie Pancake born!!!

1 egg
0.5 pint milk
1 oz oats
3 oz plain flour
Mushroom - 1 field / 3ish regular
Cheddar - handful grated
1tsp tarragon

Put oil in pan to heat. Chop mushrooms up into smallish [remember they shrink on cooking] bits and add to pan. Add a pinch / to taste of tarragon / your fave herb and a little salt.
Whilst the mushrooms cook whisk together the egg & milk and season.
Stir in the oats then whisk in the flour bit by bit trying to ensure there's no lumps of flour.
Stir in the grated cheese.
Check mushrooms - you want to cook them fairly dry rather than have them soggy in the middle of a pancake. I cooked with the lid on the pan to start with to ensure they softened up rather than going orange and charred [I personally can't stand mushrooms like this] then removed the lid to evaporate off the moisture.
Stir mushrooms into batter mix. You'll have an unappetising lumpy slightly grey mix at this point.
Regrease pan and bring back up to heat.
Cook as you would pancakes normally, spreading mix on first contact with pan to ensure an even distribution of the 'bits'.
You can eat plain or spread a little chutney or chilli jelly &c &c &c over and roll up. However you fancy it really.

The verdict - it's an idea with potential but next time I'd forget the *oats. They just made the whole thing too heavy and stodgy to my mind. Due to the thickness of the batter this recipe only yielded 3 pancakes which made each one fairly thick and weighty. Again due to the oats, these drank up the salt so need seasoning generously if you make them with the oats in. I think I’d make it a large handful of cheese next time too! Worth refining though so watch this space, the FBP will be back! :-D
*If omitting the oats use 4 oz flour instead of 3.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Testing, testing...

Seem to be having probs getting anything posted on here at the mo. :-( This is just a test then. Ooh - and I can tell you that Chiefs did very well at the weekend beating Wasps 29-6 at home. Unfortunately I had to miss this game as had a wedding do to go to but it was by all accounts a blinding game.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Quick, quick, [slow] - food

Whilst I am staunch supporter of the Slow Food ethos; sometimes life doesn't give us that luxury, particularly on a week night. Monday called for a quick food solution, this then is a dish you can knock up with what's in the cupboards, and jazz up with some of the endless selection of herbs and spices you have if you're me. :-) (Adapted from a recipe in this book, incidentally a pretty good book.)
I'm afraid there's zero photos as once it was on the plate in front of us the hoover mode went on. The third left over that should have been my lunch the next day disappeared into the bottomless pit that is t'bloke in double quick time as well so that didn't get it's picture taken either!

Quick Red Beans
1 onion / leek [I used half of each.] chopped
1 field / 3-4 regular mushrooms sliced
1 fresh / dried chilli finely chopped [deseeded or not up to you]
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 carrot, chopped
1 tin kidney beans
0.5 tin chopped / whole tomatoes
2tbsp tomato puree
4tbsp water
Worcestershire sauce and/or Mushroom ketchup
Smoked paprika

[If you want an accompaniment rice goes well. As I was chopping and stirring the bean dish I wanted to ignore the rice so just chucked the rice in the microwave. Rinse rice - put in bowl with 2x amount of boiling water and a veg stock cube. Bowl must be big enough for water to boil and rice to expand. Put on high for 12-16 mins - check packet.]
Heat oil in a decent sized saucepan over a pretty low heat.
Chop onion and leek and chuck in pan. Ditto mushroom.
Chop chilli [I used 2-3 wee dried ones - plenty] add to pan and cook all for a few mins to soften slightly.
Add garlic and coook few mins more.
Meanwhile drain and rinse beans well.
Add chopped carrot to pan.
Add beans to pan, stir.
Add about 0.5 tin toms - I tend to try and scoop out more of the chunks at this point, leaving the juice 'til later. If they're whole toms pull some out and roughly chop before adding to the pan. [Or if you want use the whole tin and either reduce before eating or have as more of a thick soup type dish]
Add the puree and water, stirring well to combine.
Add worcestershire sauce / mushroom ketchup to taste. [Remember Worcestershire sauce isn't truly veggie having anchovy in. You want the depth of flavour this or the MK gives; the kick should already be there from the chilli added earlier.]
Add smoked paprika - I find it's a very distinctive taste so a little goes a long way, I probably put in about 0.5tsp to this. Also add plenty of black pepper.
Cook all together until hot through - kidney beans should have at least 10 mins boil! Allow the flavours to meld and reduce the sauce as wanted. If it gets too reduced add some of the juice from the tinned toms / more water.
Dish up in a bowl with a spoon or on a plate with rice and just a fork and enjoy.

That's it - you could make it with any beans you happen to have in the cupboard. The original recipe doesn't use the tinned toms; just the puree so again, feel free to adjust as you like. I think it's worth having a couple of tins of 'value' range kidney beans and toms in the cupboard for these occasions. I also added the carrot and mushroom because I had them to hand - add what you have or just use the tin of beans. Quick, simple and cheap. :-)

Pic - the Slow Food Devon snail

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rosti Rapido

I've been meaning to try my hand at a veg rosti of some kind for a while, to the extent where I have a small collection of recipes gathering in the file.
Having tried this though I realise they really don't need a recipe, just a little common sense and something to bind the ingredients together with. Basically if you have a grater, an egg and some miscellaneous veg then you're off.
Quick and simple to knock up, this is how I made mine:

Rosti Rapido
1 reg - half a large carrot - grated
1 small potato - grated
Grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp dried mixed herbs / what you fancy
Little oil for frying

Place frying pan on to heat up, with a little oil in.
Grate carrot and potato onto clean tea towel. Squeeze as much moisture out as possible. Place in bowl. [Note - your towel will no longer be anywhere near clean and you will marvel at the amount of 'orange' that came out of the carrots then you may think, like me 'bugger - I wish I hadn't used a white one'.]
Add grated cheese and mix to distribute evenly.
Mix in herbs, pepper and a little salt, bearing in mind the cheese adds salt.
Mix cornflour through.
Beat egg and add, mixing really well.
Pour into pan, flattening out to make a round cake - or you could make about 4 individual ones. Place lid on pan - this will help reflect some of the heat downwards to cook the top. [Also true of omelettes.]
Fry for a few minutes until underside looks done when gently lifted with a spatula.
Turn - I utilised the 'plate on top of pan and flip over then slide back in' method.
Cook until done on bottom and whole way through. Mine had perhaps 10 minutes cooking time total. You want the potato cooked as this starts off raw in this recipe.
Enjoy with a green salad and a dollop of mayo.
I can see me making this quite a few times in the future - truly quick but satisfying food, not too bad for you depending on the cheese levels and can be made with most veg - whatever you have lying around. Yay for the Rosti Rapido sez I!