Friday, 27 May 2011

Tempus Fugit

Well once more the week appears to have flittered away faster then I could foresee - necessitating a rubbishy short post right here in place of anything proper and more substantial.  Though for all I know you may be heaving  a sigh of relief at the enforced lack of wittering.  *shrugs shoulders in an 'I don't know man, you tell me' kind of way.*
Anyway - things to do at the weekend - allotmenting; more watering, planting out of asparagus peas, chard, beetroot.  Possible sowing of cheaty plantlets of parsnips as none of my 2 different kinds of seed seem to have come up!  :-(  More strawberry picking.  :-)
Maybe making of pickled eggs, shelves to go up, potentially some sort of nettle brew or elderflower if we get ourselves into gear,a  lick of paint on the old blue chimney pot.
Enjoy the bank hol and I hope for sun where y'all are too.

Next week - meat cooking for the faint hearted...  :-D

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Towel Day

Well my happy froods - towel day is here - I hope you're all wearing yours with pride?  Enjoy the day and take a moment to reflect on the genius of Douglas Adams.  Remember - 'Beware of the Leopard'!  :-D

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Arrabiata prawn pasta - speedy supper

Speedy supper for when  it's late, you're tired and hungry and no - you really can't be bothered being virtuous and make a sauce from scratch.  Nowt wrong with that in my opinion.  'Arrabiata' means Angry - which is a reference to the chilli kick this sauce has.  You could use whatever sauce you have in the cupboard though and add your own chilli - or leave it out as you like.  It's quick and simple but still tasty - ideal.

Speedy prawn pasta
Stock cube - veg
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
Jar arrabiata pasta sauce - ours was Aldi for about 75-80p-ish but not bad
2-3 tbsp tomato puree
Mushroom ketchup
Dried basil
Handful prawns
Handful spinach
Grated cheese - parmesan if you have it in, cheddar if you don't [or are forgetful of your recent parmesan purchasing activities like I was - dur!!]
Black Pepper

Cook the pasta in plenty of water seasoned with the stock cube and a splosh of oil to prevent sticking.  (I always put the kettle on for the water for things like pasta as it takes a lot less time than boiling the water on the hob from cold - especially if you have an electronic hob - I'm soooo glad I have gas!!)  Ensure to cook al dente as it'll be added to the sauce and heated again later.
Meanwhile heat a little butter and oil in a large wide saucepan.
Chop the onion and garlic and add to pan.  Cook gently to soften.
Chop the mushrooms - use however many you like / have in stock.  I used 5/6 I think.
Add to the pan with the onion and garlic, sprinkle a little salt and cook covered to keep the juices in, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have sweated right down.
Add the pasta sauce.  As I mentioned ours was an Aldi effort - not bad but it did taste a little sweet to me so I added a good squirt of tomato puree - probably 2-3 tbsp and a splash of mushroom ketchup to counteract this and give the sauce some depth.
Add a decent pinch of basil - I was out of oregano otherwise I'd have added this too.  Any Italian herbs you have will do.
Stir thoroughly then add the pasta and stir well again to get it all covered in sauce.  We had S'bury's basics penne - the grooves hold the sauce nicely and it's v. frugal at a mere 17p for 500g dried product - that's even better than Aldi or Lidl can manage!
Ensure it's heated through thoroughly then add your prawns.  I buy the S'bury's basics frozen 300g bags at £2 a go.  As long as you don't overcook them they're fine, just smaller.  (Hence if overcooked they'll a) vanish and b) turn hard - yeurgh!)  It means that for that price I don't mind adding a large handful - I love prawns!!  [I also know myself and after defrosting while they're sat on the side waiting to go into the pan we seem to magically lose half of them - very odd it is...]
Cook only enough to just heat them *through then add the spinach and turn it into the pasta and sauce, cover the pan and remove from the heat.  Let stand for a bare minute to wilt the spinach.
Serve and sprinkle with grated cheese and a good few twists of black pepper on top.  Voil√†!!  Shouldn't have taken too long so now feel free to go collapse and chillax.
*Obviously using your common sense where seafood and the heating / cooking thereof is concerned.  I accept nowt &c &c...
If you don't have spinach use whatever you have; adding at the right point so it gets cooked.  EG - if it's calabrese I'd add for the last 2 mins of the pasta cooking time and thereafter drain it etc all together.  Treat this as a vague guideline suggestion type iof thing and ensure you have value pasta and a jar of sauce in the cupboard for those times and you're away.

One of the greats of our time

Tomorrow is Towel Day - a day dedicated to the remembrance of Douglas Adams; author, mac and net enthusiast, sometime scriptwriter for Dr Who and bit part player in Monty Python.  Carry your towel and celebrate the man that came up with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - a pocket sized electronic guide to - well - pretty much everything, 2 decades before reality managed to catch up with him.  Skills.  :-D

Monday, 23 May 2011

Why we do it...

The constant digging I mean.  And weeding, stooping, scrubbing dirt from fingernails and clothes, the battle with slugs, snails, bugs and birds, the expenditure on varied types of poo be it worm casts, chicken manure or good old horse dung, the endless endless bindweed...
2 kg fresh strawberries picked yesterday.  That's why.  Pimms o'clock anyone? 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Crunchy Topped Fish Pie

Ideal for using up odds and sods of fish in the freezer or buy some pie mix from your local fishmonger (undoubtedly better qulity and value than the stupormarkets - unless it's on the CFC of course), this is a doddle to make, goes a long way, can be a light summery dish or a comforting one for those chillier evenings and best of all is topped with cheesy crunchy breadcrumbs.  No 6 inch layer of mash followed by a game of hunt the prawn here.  This is a FISH pie.  Made of FISH.  It is not an excercise in rebranding a mashed potato pie as it's piscine equivalent in the hope of sqeezing some more pennies out of the poor old public.  You know who I'm talking about here don't you crappy pubs/Youngs &c?  (Did you know there's a whole 18% fish in a Youngs Admirals Pie.  18%?  That's disgusting.  And I had to find that out from S'burys site - they don't tell you on their own.  It's 45% potato - nearly half.  Words fail me.  [Though probably not for long.])  My pie has no potato in it.  Again - NO POTATO.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the spud but there's a place for it and if it's near this dish it's most definitely on the side not in it.  Here the fish is the star.  Even, as previously mentioned, when it's the cheap off cuts and a handful of value prawns.  So - rant over - this is what you do.  Amounts are a little hazy as it depends how big a pie you're making - mine was with a (whisper it) supermarket pie mix from the CFC for 70p with some mussels picked from Exmouth thrown in.

Crunchy Topped Fish Pie
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
Mushrooms - approx 4-5
White wine (optional)
2oz plain flour
0.5 pt milk
Tarragon - or your preferred herbs - a pinch
Peas / sweetcorn - to your taste - defrosted if frozen.  I added a little seabeet we had too.
Grated cheese

Put oven on at Gas 6 to heat up.
Put EVOO and butter in pan to heat up.
Chop onion, garlic and mushrooms and fry gently to soften.
After a few mins add a splosh of white wine and raise the heat to boil off the alcohol and reduce the liquid a bit.  Or don't bother with the wine - we had an open bottle to hand so I popped some in.
Meanwhile make the sauce by melting 1oz butter in the microwave. 
Whisk the flour in - 2 rounded tablespoons is a good measure for 2 oz. 
Add a little milk and whisk in to get rid of the lumps then add the rest of the milk and season with S+P and a pinch of tarragon.
Microwave and whisk periodically until thickened and the flour is cooked out.
Lay the raw fish out in the base of your casserole dish and put in the oven to start off.
Mix the onion, garlic and mushrooms into the white sauce and add your veg - peas or whatever you wish.
Pour the sauce over the fish.
Mix the breadcrumbs and grated cheese and sprinkle evenly over the top.
Cook covered in oven for 30 mins-ish dependent on size of pie - until top golden and cheese melted.  Check after 15 mins.  Even with the lid on the crumbs should crisp up nicely.

And that's all there is to it - a fish packed tasty, healthy pie with nary a scrap of watery mash in sight.  You can add your choice of fish - whether as a mix or spoil yourself with just your favourite.  In this way it can be as frugal as you can make it or rather more of a luxury treat for yourself.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Happy weekend!

Well the Blogger dashboard has been down most of today so I've been unable to bring this up to date with my scintillating exploits.  *Sob* Have a top weekend one and all - I shall possibly be attempting cheese making for the first time [woop woop] and allotmenting and things of that nature.  Enjoy.  :-D

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Parke Estate

A sunny afternoons wander in the countryside back round easter.  We had a pleasant walk round the Parke Estate on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, not a place I knew of before.  We wandered along the stream, tried to spot oil beetles [we didn't but we saw some other pretty ones] and generally had a lovely afternoon.  Pics follow.

 And here's the beetle - any ideas what it is?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Seaside bimble with a forage thrown in

Well in contrast with the excess of the food festy we took a little bimble along the coast the previous week from Exmouth round to Sandy Bay and picked up some rather more frugal foodie goodies.  The weather was glorious, the sea - er - bracing!  [Mighty nippy.]  All in all it was a thoroughly restorative day for someone cooped up with hurty eyes for too long.  Found various shells, some dog whelks and one full size whelk which we stashed in the cool under a rock and failed to find again on the way back!  [Darn those pesky rocks all looking the same!]  I loved the colour of this little crab shell though.
We had taken along the River Cottage 'Edible Seashore' guide and having carefully perused the pages on mussels decided we'd collect a few of decent size to try.  I must say it's a tiny bit thrilling to be doing so when you consider mussels in a pub or restaurant are perceived more as a luxery item with price tag to match and here we were getting them for nuppence - the best price!  Do be aware though that you will need a 'sacrificial knife' once you get home to deal with them.  No - I don't mean for any dodgy offerings to some formless deity of your choice but a knife you don't mind getting very blunted for the purposes of pulling off the *beards and scraping off any barnacles.  The knife I snapped the tip off of getting into oysters after last years food fest does me nicely!  Having got a plastic bag from the local plastic tat / buckets 'n' spades type shop [we were woefully underprepared apart from the book having both forgotten to pick up anything to put any foraged goodies into] we collected a decent handful of mussels and some Sugar Kelp seaweed.  According to the book of words it's good flash deep fried as a kelp crisp - you can tell the difference from regular kelp (which can also be treated this way) as it has wavy edges and a bumpy look whereas regular kelp is flat.
Now - mussels can contain grit as they're filter feeders.  (This is why it's very important indeed you only get them from clean water areas and at certain times of the year which I'm not going to tell you thereby forcing you to look it up yourself.  I take no responsibility for any wild food misadventures, only for my own!)  Containing grit means you need to 'purge' them - soak them in aerated salt water for several hours with or without oatmeal (apparently it can speed the process) before cooking.  If you're going to cook them in a sauce like a classic moules marini√®re this is important as grit in the dish is a real killer to the enjoyment of great food.  We however; due to time constraints amongst other factors, opted to cook them in plain water letting any grit fall into the pan then shelled them and used them in a fish pie.  Chap and I did taste one each 'straight' as it were and they were delicious.  Sweetish as really fresh prawns can be, a delight to eat knowing we'd scooped them from the waves mere hours before.  We'll definitely be repeating this experience though we'll have to wait now until after the summer as this is when they spawn so you shouldn't pick them.  Apparently they are biggest in Autumn after their summer feeding and before they lose weight over winter so it'll be a treat I'm looking forward to already.
*I learnt from the book that the 'beards' or 'abyssal threads' are made from iron the mussel extracts from the seawater and used to be woven into cloth called 'mussel silk' which such luminaries as Caeser and Ghengis Khan used to wear!  Cool huh?  [In case you hadn't picked up on it yet I am a lover of the odd random and/or esoteric fact or three.]
Oh and the kelp?  Er...we kinda forgot about it so the taste of Sugar Kelp crisps remains to yet delight our tastebuds, or not as it may be.  (We had to throw the seaweed away.)  We will gather some again another time though.  I know - my bad.  :-(  Even free food wastage annoys me!  :-D

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

4 days of foodieness! (Well actually - we did water the allotment too...)

Well, we've had a busy few days here in (mostly) sunny Devon.  As I predicted much cheese was purchased as well as several nice pints of ale consumed; or should I say 'quaffed'  [I loved this sign] at the food festival and now my fridge and freezer are both well stocked with tasty morsels.  [The bloke on the bar seemed so impressed with 3 ladies - Ma, big sis and I - all having pints of real ale he insisted on a pic of us.  Not sure whether that's slightly creepy or flattering!]  Whilst there I purchased a second smaller chopping board for pungent things like garlic.  This is a whacking solid bit of beech wood [really shouldn't have made it the first thing I bought!] and cost me a fiver.  Not bad considering that with a little care I should never need to replace it.  It came from the same people I got my full size oak one from [you'll have seen it in recipe pics] a few years back and is also made from reclaimed wood.  I really have no excuses to get any more now but they are truly things of beauty.
Another purchase I'm rather pleased with is this smoked pepper - ok not even vaguely pretending to be frugal [though you can lift basic food with judicious seasoning as long as you have the options in the cupboard] but it's very tasty without being overwhelming.  Although the bloke on the stall recommended it with things like steak I can announce it goes well with a salmon cream cheese roll for brekkie, garnished with a little sorrel from the allotment.  I think it'd work with eggs as well; with most things if you like the smoked flavour.  I'm a fan anyway!
I'm afraid this is a bit of a short post [I've watering to do] but really - if you're any kind of foodie at all go to one of these shows just so you've had the experience.  You don't have to go mad and buy far too much cheese like I did - virtually every stall has samples to taste and there's something for everyone.  Look up your local show and go now!  We picked up details for a couple of local monthly food fairs / famer's markets whilst we were there and I have now truly set my heart on attending Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival in September.  Oh - and making our own cheese but that's another post...