Sunday, 29 December 2013

Random Recipes - 'Dare to Bare'

Well there went chrimble - I've been so disorganised (and also quite busy) that I totally failed to get a post
up before the day.  Hey ho, hope we all had fun anyway.  :-)
I've also been super slack at getting any blog challenge posts done but thankfully lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen, instead of the normal Random Recipe gave us the task of 'Daring to Bare' and photographing our larder / pantry / food cupboards.  I'm still a day late with this but I'm sure he's used to it by now!
My 'pantry-in-potentia' has yet to be built into the space under the stairs so at the moment I have two very disorganised and messy cupboards.  Don't say I didn't warn you...
This is the kitchen cupboard, note most of a whole shelf devoted to herbs / spices / vinegars etc!
Two things I always have - soy sauce and mushroom ketchup.  The latter gives the depth you miss when not using meat.  I generally have quite a few oriental options in stock.  Different noodles, pickled turnip (nicer than it sounds), random tins of braised eel - because I loved the packaging.  ;-)
This is the other cupboard.  For overflow / multibuys.
Multiple packs of pasta, stuffing, jars of curry pastes.  The left side is full of cds which is why I haven't pictured it.  Not a lot of free space though as you can see and the best bit of this is - I have an Approved Food order arriving on Tuesday.  Now where am I going to put that lot...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mash? Smashed it!

Apologies for the cheesy title but I'm kind of excited by my discovery this evening.  Mash can be nice!!  Good - even tasty!!!  I have always disliked mash; there's no texture, there's no taste, all too often it's too watery and just insipid and all round uninspiring.  To me it has always been the lowest form of cooked potato to eat.
However - as I mentioned I have had something of a epiphany.  I was making mash to top the Chaps cottage pie with (heroic meat cooking by the faint hearted I reckon) and I played around with it a bit and found - The Perfect Mash.
(Imagine a little musical 'ahh ah aaahhh' at this point if you will.)

Do you want to know the first secret?  Do you??

Don't boil the potatoes.

Ahaa - boiling them just introduces water into a; by necessity, floury potato.  It's floury nature means it will soak it up = rubbish mash.
A note here - you need a decent spud too, if that's not too much of an obvious thing to say.  Mine were local Desiree's bought complete with the dirt on from the local grocers.  A good spud should taste nice already, even before we add the magic.
So - if we're not boiling the spuds what are we doing with them?  Some people advocate baking them which is fine if you already have the oven on for something else, but if all you want is a bowl of mash it seems a bit long winded to me.  So - I microwaved them.  Scrub clean then prick the skins well with a fork - they'll explode if you don't!  I had two monsters - over 600g between them.  Microwave for 5 mins, turn over, cook for another 5 and prong with the fork to test if they're done.  If not give them another couple of mins.
Once they're cooked slice open in half to help the steam out.
With a fork to steady the spud (they are hot!) scoop the innards out with a spoon into a bowl.  Roughly mash with the fork.
Add 2 big spoons (about tablespoons) of Greek yoghurt and 2 of horseradish sauce.  Some salt and pepper and a small knob of butter.  Mix in well but endeavour to keep some texture to the mash.
I have a lot of catching up to do on a lifetime of spurned mash...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Easy chunky fish chowder

Having taken some fish snaffled up from the bargainous CFC out of the freezer yesterday  with the intention
A mere £3.75 for all 4 fish fillets.  :-)
of making my crunchy topped fish pie, I realised tonight as I got home late from work that I really just could not be bothered.  So - what to do with the fish?  A nice chowder would suit the freezing outdoor temperatures nicely I figured, and should be easy to knock up.
Atypically for me I didn't then embark on a 2 hour research project comparing the relative merits of each and every recipe on the interwebs but I adapted this one from the BBC good food website and made it even easier and chunkier.

Chunky Fish Chowder
2 sticks celery - diced
1 leek - sliced then the rounds sliced in half
500g spuds - diced small as I didn't bother peeling them.  I used waxy spuds as that's what I had and what I prefer
1 litre fish (or use veg) stock
Skinning salmon is easy, cod - not so much!
Zest of 1 lemon (if you haven't got a lemon in the house feel free to leave this out - I wasn't convinced you could taste it in the final product tbh)
1 tsp cornflour
2 salmon fillets (my pack was 260g) - skinned and cut into chunks
2 cod fillets (my pack was 220g) - skinned and cut into chunks
300ml full fat milk
150g sweetcorn - defrost if frozen
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt

Soften the celery and leeks in the EVOO for 5ish mins while chopping the spuds.
Add the spuds, stock and lemon zest.  Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Stir the cornflour into a small amount of cold water and add to the pot.
Once the potatoes are soft (up to 15 mins) use a masher and crush them into the soup a bit.  How much is up to you.  It saves getting the FP out though!
Add the milk and sweetcorn and warm up.
Add the fish and cook gently for a few minutes until done.  Don't boil or the fish will fall apart.
Serve - I put a little more lemon zest on mine.  The original recipe suggests chives but I didn't have any.
Tasty, easy and filling, I enjoyed this greatly.  Helped warm me through too.  :-)
As I'd used reduced fish it was a cheap dish for me to make and I just used veg that was to hand, so no need to shop especially for this dish.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Quick, tasty & frugal - Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelette)

I wanted to whip up a quick lunch yesterday and was going to make an omelette when I remembered there was half a *tins worth of potatoes in the fridge to be used up.  I love Spanish Tortilla so it was a bit of a no-brainer decision what to do with them.
This is quick, easy and cheap yet satisfying and a bit more of a meal than just an omelette would be.  In fact really this makes enough for a snack later too.  As the Spanish generally advocate serving it at room temperature this is most definitely not a problem for me!
So - what do we need?

1 small onion, halved and sliced finely
Half a tin potatoes- use the value ones
2 eggs
Fresh parsley

Heat a slug of EVOO and sweat down the onions whilst you slice the potatoes.  You can make them thick or thin - it' a matter of personal choice. I've seen recipes for both ways on line and they all claim that theirs is the 'authentic' way of doing it.
Add the potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook gently, half covered, until nicely softened, getting a little colour and taking on all the lovely oniony flavours.
Beat the eggs, add plenty of salt and pepper and pour swiftly into the pan.  Throw in the chopped parsley and give the whole lot a very quick stir so everything is coated in the egg, then cover and leave to cook.
Once you judge the bottom is cooked through, cover the pan with a plate and quickly invert the lot, then slide the tortilla back in to finish cooking.
Serve.  That's all there is to it.  J
You could add other bits to this depending on what you have lying around to use up.  You could also add another egg for an even more substantial final product if wanted.  It's one of those very un-strict recipes.  Have a play with it!

*I don't normally use tinned potatoes but had wanted to experiment with them for my lunch at work.  Our work kitchen is woefully under equipped - there's a coffee maker and a boiling water tap and that's it.  No microwave, toaster, kettle, anything of that sort.  This can make it a bit of a challenge (and one I embrace) to come up with hot food for lunch in the winter.  One day I might get round to a mini-series of posts on 'cooking without a cooker' or something along those lines.

I'm adding this to Chris's Bloggers Around the World - Food World Cup challenge.  Do check it out - there's going to be a lot of posts for this one!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

First frost

First frost of this winter here today.  We're lucky down in the South West that we get a lot warmer climes most of the time than a lot of the rest of our wee island.  Today the river steamed gently in the morning sun on a truly beautiful morning as I wended my way to work.

The cold I can cope with but I do love it to be bright and sunny.  It's those grey dreary November days that get me down.  As I read recently 'November is like the Thursday of the year.'  And as the great Douglas Adams wrote in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy 'I never could get the hang of Thursdays...'

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bloggers around the World - Greece - Tomato Pancakes / Keftedes and the case of the spookily disappearing feta

This month’s country for ‘Bloggers Around the World’ by Chris over at Cooking Around the World is Greece.  Now this is one of my fave  blog challenges but sadly I have not managed to enter for a few months but, as it was I that suggested Greece, I really really am deffo going to get at least one post in for it.  Kinda feel I should!
That said, as my failure to take part in the other months has been due to time constrictions (either in making the dish or in posting it having made it – now that’s really irritating) I decided to start with a quick snack style option and see if I can get more of a main course in later in the month.  --As I’m now posting this at the very end of the month the obvious answer to that was no.  L  Doh!
Now I had intended to serve these tomato pancakes/fritters/keftedes* with a nice authentic Greek hummus to dip into.  Until that is, I started doing my research and found that hummus isn’t really Greek.  It’s most likely Middle Eastern in origin; although it does seem to be one of those things that’s gets argued about, but the earliest reference found for it is in Egypt (13thC) and the word Hummus is Arabic for Chickpea which seems fairly conclusive to my mind. 
 So - a little crumbled feta and some tasty olives would have to do the trick instead.  Hmm – where did that feta go?  One day it was in the fridge and the next – poof – it had vanished in a puff of (Halloween) magic!  Must have been the really big fridge dwelling mice the Chap tells me we have.  The ones that leave human sized bite marks in blocks of cheddar… !!  I settled for some shavings of goats cheese with the olives instead.
*I came across this recipe first on the BBC Good Food website then found it on the original blog.  [I've asked the blog owner for permission to post the recipe but had no response but the blog has been dormant for the last 3 years so I’m going to post it anyway, especially as she said a Greek lady gave her the recipe in the first place.  Plus I made a couple of small tweaks.  Still with me so far?!]  It’s called tomato pancakes there so I tried to find the translation for ‘pancakes’ into Greek.  Hmm – I don’t read the Greek/Phoenician alphabet though which came up with τηγανίτες or κρέπα, so after a little more pottering on google it seemed that keftedes was a close approximation to fritters/pancakes.  Having seen several very similar recipes to this that termed them fritters instead of pancakes I think it’s ok to adopt this term for them.  [Quite possibly any Greek person reading this is wincing at my torturous mishandling of their fair language though as it really isn't ok to use ‘keftedes’ in this way, if so my apologies to you!]  Also my apologies to anyone who just waded through this paragraph and wondered what the point was.  Believe me – I often wonder the same myself when I've been wittering on at length without appearing to get anywhere!
However; we have got to some beautiful warm islands in the blue blue sea and come upon Greece.  I haven’t yet been lucky enough to visit Greece but it’s on my definitely-want-to list.  I imagine the tomatoes there to be bursting with fresh flavour and that these simple little pancakes are a joy to eat.  Here’s how to make them:
Greek Tomato Pancake / Keftedes
5 Tomatoes
2 Spring Onions
1 Egg
Up to 120g Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1-2 tsp dried oregano or fresh if you have it
1 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying

As some of my toms were on the small size I used 6 for the recipe so needed all the flour.  Add up to 100g first is my advice then add the rest if needed.
Slice toms in half round the ‘waist’ – this makes them easier to grate than slicing them top to bottom I found out after the first attempt!
Grate into a colander over a bowl to catch the juice.  (Use this up in soup etc.)
Finely chop the spring onions and mix into the toms.
Beat the egg and whisk into the mix.
Sift in the flour and beat in bit by bit.  Add the seasonings and beat in well too.  Add enough flour to make a thick batter – preferably sans lumps; unless they're the tomatoes!

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook in spoonfuls – 3 to 4 at a time depending on the size of your pan.  Cook until golden – they must be cooked through or can be a bit nastily mushy as the tomatoes are naturally full of moisture. 
I tried these on the bloke and he said they were ‘ok’.  Damned by faint praise!  I did tend to agree with him though.  I think the issue is that as aforementioned the toms in Greece are probably rather more flavourful than those here, especially at this time of year.  So – use lovely vine-ripened ones of the best quality would be my advice.  Oh – and don’t skimp on the salt; tomatoes are one of those things that really need it to bring the flavour out.
Eating these with the olives worked really well though so I think they are one of those things that contrast well; provide a good foil for something with a bit more depth of flavour.
So – a tasty relatively quick thing to knock up but make it in the summer when the toms are at their best.  Enjoy.  J

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Perk up your pies

I'm woefully behind with my posts and have a veritable arms length of them to get up but I thought I'd share this little tip with you quickly.
When you're baking pies, or you could try the same with savoury scones; pop some herbs and ground black pepper in the egg wash over the top.  Whatever takes your fancy really.  This cheese and onion pie benefited from a little oregano, pepper and a squeeze of tomato puree mixed in and liberally sloshed on before baking.  Yum!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

National Curry Week 2013

I just found out yesterday it's National Curry Week this week in the UK!  I spied a little display in the shop by my work otherwise it could have passed me by without me realising - and we can't have that can we?  :-)
On the website it tells you a bit about the idea behind it - participating restaurants donate a little of the profits or you can have a home dinner where yourself an friends all bring a dish and donate and the money goes towards helping with relief for disasters and/or malnutrition in Asia.
As I've just stumbled across the event I haven't arranged anything specific but I'm going to make something yummy and possible charge the Chap for it!!  Or just suggest we donate on line perhaps...

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Meat Cooking for the Faint Hearted #6 - Bacon and Beans

This is the kind of warming dish I've wanted to try out on/for the Chap for a while now.  I finally made it prompted by my bargain purchase of 3 tins of cannellini beans for 99p at a newly opened 99p store close to
Flanked by some other bargains.
2 packs of the tuna fillets - 99p and
garlic salad 99p.  :-)
us.  This makes it tick the 'frugal' box and the usage of whatever veg you have in that needs using up makes it even better as a cheap meal.
I did a little scooting about on the t'internet and came up with the below; mostly influenced by and adapted from this recipe.

Bacon and White Beans
Lump bacon - you can get cheap mis-shape packs in S'burys and butchers.  (I forgot to weigh how much I used but you can use rashers instead, as much or as little as you like / your pocket dictates.)
1-2 cloves garlic (to taste)
1 small onion / half a whopper (that's what I had)
1 carrot (or a stick of celery or both)
1 can beans - drained and rinsed (I used cannellini but white beans of your choice will do)
250ml stock (I used veg, you could use chicken if you have it)
Black pepper
Sprig Rosemary
1 bay leaf

Chop the bacon into lardons or leave whole if using rashers and chop after cooking.  Fry off the bacon in a heavy based pan - I used my cast iron one person sized casserole.  Fry until crispy then remove but leave the fat in the pan.
Add the sliced and rough chopped onion, minced garlic and the diced carrot and cook for a few minutes until softened.  (I used carrot as I didn't have any celery in the house but use both or either or neither -it's not a real picky recipe.)
Add the beans and bacon and cook for a couple of minutes whilst you nip outside and get the herbs - these are mine by the front door.  Or use dried of course.  :-)
Scrunch up the bay leaf a little and chop the rosemary finely if using fresh.  Add to the pan with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Add the stock, stir well and whack up the heat to bring to the boil.  [At this point I realised I forgot the garlic so chucked in a good half teaspoon of garlic granules instead.  Doh!]
Reduce the heat and simmer covered for half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Then uncover and simmer for up to a further 30 minutes stirring more often to ensure it doesn't catch on the bottom.  It may not need the full 30 but do it for as long as it takes to get to a nice sticky consistency.  Adjust this to your preference, leave it more soupy if you like, everything's well cooked by now.
Serve with some fresh greens on the side and watch the Chap wolf it down - he professed it to be lovely and ate the lot at one sitting!  :-)
I had to entrust the Chap with taking this shot but to be fair, this kind of meal is never going to win any 'pretty' awards!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A short treatise on the scotch egg

Now this may seem an odd subject for a pescatarian to pontificate upon but one of my favourite blogs to read has an author who is ADDICTED to the humble scotch egg, so keeps mentioning them, which keeps putting them to the forefront of my mind, and has thus made me overly curious about them.
(Yes John from Going Gently - I am looking at you here.)
Admittedly it doesn't take me a lot to become curious about something when it means I can spend several happy hours pinging around t'internet looking at recipes when the alternative is doing the washing up or some other dull as ditch-water pastime; but in my defence, before I gave up the meat eating I was partial to an occasional scotch egg.  So the realisation that there are many varied recipes for veggie versions out there got
me even more interested.  Then this weekend we found these intriguing sounding variants in Falmouth and the compulsion was complete - I will make veggie / fish based scotch eggs!  Once I've spent hours researching them of course!!  :-D
The origins of the scotch egg seem to be contested territory with many people espousing the 'invented by Fortnum and Mason' line.  F&M themselves lay claim to it, quoting 1738 on their website, although it's not backed up by any actual history pages.  However - a little further research tells us it may have been the name that came first, referring as it did to a preservation process used back in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the encasing in meat / whatever that came later.  *This site explains the preserving method using lightly boiled eggs dusted with a lime-powder disinfectant that was utilised to enable the eggs to be shipped from Scotland to London without spoiling.
A written recipe for the meat encased version first popped up in 1807 (in Britain anyway) and at this time scotch eggs were served hot with gravy as part of a meal.
[I mentioned this to the chap and he was roundly disgusted by the idea; which goes to show how much our preconceptions of what is 'normal' affect our thinking sometimes.  Meat and hard boiled eggs served hot with a sauce shouldn't seem odd surely, but put them in that particular combo and all of sudden our culinary conventions alarms are all shrieking.  I digress...]
Interestingly the info on that website also includes a recipe from the 1861 Mrs Beeton 'The book of Household Management' which indicates it was perfectly normal to make them with anchovies instead of pork.  This was another idea which greatly offended the sensibilities of the chap...  (Should you wish to try this - I might - the 'Forcemeat recipe No. 417' can be found here - scroll down until you reach it.)
The other strong contender for the origin of the idea, although not the 'scotch egg' moniker, seems to be the Indian version called Nargisi Kofta where the egg is cased in spiced lamb.  This was brought to India from Persia and then presumably found it's way to us in the empire days.  Tellingly this ties in with when F&M claim to have invented the scotch egg.  (In the book 'Delights from the Garden of Eden' it's mentioned that meat encased eggs existed in medieval times in Persia.)
Some of the other theories are rounded up here, for anyone not already over-satiated on scotch egg facts.
(I admit I tend to overload on info in a compulsive way before trying new recipes out; in this way I hope to get 'the' definitive idea of what something should be like before attempting to create it.  High falutin - much?!)
Anyway - whatever the history there now seem to be multiple versions out there, from the black pudding encased Manchester egg invented in 2010 (with optional salt and vinegar crisps crust) to the Worcester egg (pickled in worcestershire sauce) to the previously mentioned multitude of veggie options to a 'Geordie egg' which utilises both black and white pudding.  I am trying to come to a conclusion on what to try first, the veggie options range from bean crusts, soya mince, falafel or rice so there's plenty of scope for a little kitchen experimentation.  I do fancy trying a fishy version though - if only the shop in Falmouth hadn't been sold out of that one...

*'The Foods of England' site is a gem with the very worthy mission of finding the story behind all traditional English foods ever!  They also have copies of many early recipe books including the c1390 vellum roll 'The Forme of Cury' (=Ku-Ury - ie cookery) written by the Chief Master Cook of King Richard II.  I find it an absolutely fascinating resource.  Mind you I do like my obscure old recipe books; I love the social history you can glean from them as much as the crazy sounding (to us) recipes.  :-)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Chap and I go to Dorset :-)

We had a weekend in Dorset a few weekends back.  We went to see the Brownsea Open Air Theatre's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  We also got to meet up with my mother and sisters, brother in law, aunt and uncle, 2 cousins and their other halves.  So there was a fair few of us!
After a late Friday night on Brownsea Island enjoying the open air Shakespeare and our 'posh' picnic (de riguer for these things) - although enjoying the mossies somewhat less, we started later than usual for our Saturday morning walk.  We drove west through Corfe Castle and on up along the ridge until we turned off for Worth Matravers.  This is a very pretty little village situated a mile or so from the coastal path and homing my favourite pub, the Square and Compass.  (Of which I have spoken before.)
On the walk we saw lots of insect life on the hills and cliff tops.  This is a Marbled White butterfly - I think a male.
There were lots of these flitting about the thistles growing through the long grasses.  Often in the past I've seen blue butterflies on these cliff tops but not today - perhaps a sad indicator of the changing nature in our countryside?
This is a moth rather than a butterfly but was showing itself off just as enthusiastically, and was just as welcome a sight.  This is the Six Spot Burnet - rather fab don't you think?
Later that day it absolutely threw it down, but thankfully after we'd had the customary pint and pasty at the pub.  :-)  It just wouldn't be the Worth Matravers experience without those!  
If you should find yourself in that region of Dorset do give it a look, it's a beautiful place.

(PS - apologies for the shortness and fairly insipid nature of this post - I still seem to be struggling to have time to write these things up.  We've had the Chap's son staying for the summer and he has somewhat monopolized the pc as his laptop gave up the first week he was down.  He has now returned home so hopefully autumn should prove bounteous in posts as well as produce though!)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Pics, seaside and graffiti

Once more there’s been a little while between my last post and this one.  Here in the UK it’s hot hot hot at present.  I'm sure you’ll be well aware of that though so there’s really no point me utilising extraneous words to portray the nastiness of an office that’s 27⁰ at 8.30am and has climbed to 29+⁰ by lunchtime, or the unpleasant feeling when you get up and know your skirt has stuck to the backs of your legs in some sort of nasty take on the embarrassing tucking it into your knickers theme, or the constant watering needed of any plant in a pot or, or or…&c &c.
 In fact I like watering the plants as it enforces a little reflective time and the cool water in the warm evening is very pleasant when accidentally spilt on your feet.  J
Anyway, no particular thing to post but thought I’d share a few pics taken recently of things I found interesting.  Excuse the quality of some; they came from my (very old) 2mp phone.
Shortly after the last post I saw the cygnets out of the water, grazing up on the banks.  Here they are looking lovely.  They’re a fair bit bigger than this now!
Speaking about the plants (I was you know – do try and pay attention…) you can see our flourishing fig here, this was just a 3” high twig when we got this from the Eden project 2 years ago.  Not doing too badly huh?  You can see one of the chillies in the window behind.  We have 3 others in the plastic plant house thing out the back having cheated and got 4 plants from the food fest in April as we (I) were a bit late with the seed planting this year.  All this hot weather is doing them wonders too.
As the Chap has been working continuously it seems like – or all days, every evening and mostly all weekends, my friend took pity on me last Saturday and invited me along to the beach with her, her husband, his sister and her husband and their 2 kids.  We took the train to Teignmouth – a great piece of line that runs right along the sea, then the little ferry boat across the estuary to Shaldon on the opposite side.  I had a lovely paddle – here’s your proof!  This is looking back over to the ‘back beach’ at Teignmouth, with the harbour entrance on the right.  As previously mentioned, apols for the quality but I took this on my phone to send it to the Chap.  Show him what he was missing!  (Was that mean?)
Over the last few months I've noticed a rash of graffiti around that all seems to be done by the same hand.  Now I'm not averse to writings that make you pause for thought or well executed street art but this person is starting to annoy me.  You see their idealistic anarchy 'A' symbols all over the place including where it really does detract from the environs.  And I'm sorry my child, but anarchy would never work as unfortunately someone has to make sure the bins are emptied and the water keeps running &c.  
Anyway - see what you think of this little lot.  I'm not entirely sure what Brian Eno has to do with anything though...  :-)

Friday, 21 June 2013


There doesn't seem to be very many this year.  :-(   These two are delightful though!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Body shop freebie - valid until 30 June 2013

Quick one to let you know - you can sign up here to be emailed a voucher for a free Bodyshop Lip Balm.  Print it out or show it on your smartphone.  There's a few stores you can't use it at and unfortunately (for me) one of those is Exeter but most places are fine.
Incidentally the vouchercodes site can have some decent deals on so worth keeping half an eye on - it all helps eh?
Now, because I can't envisage a post with no images here's one of a yarnbomb in Exeter a couple of weeks back.  This is new to me but there's some fab pics here - thanks to my friend Kate for showing me the wondrous world of yarnbombing!  :-)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Wild food finds, an apology and my dad

Well blimey - I hadn't realised it had been over a month since my last post but it was all the way back on the 1st May!  I've missed several blog challenges and cooked others but never posted them and generally probably come across as a bit slack.
I seem to have found it hard over May to shake the malaise that accompanies a bout of 'teetering on the brink of' depression.  [I also found it very hard to write that 'D' word then too.]
However, I am here now, albeit with a fairly brief post.  (I realised I was missing posting stuff as I can get so het up in these massively long and wordy missives laden with fairly dull photographs that they take so long to write they never get completed.)
So - that's the 'apology/explanation' bit done - now I have a question or two for us.
This is Rosy Garlic.  The Chap and I first came across this on Scilly last year but I recently was massively excited to spot a patch just minutes from the house!  Win!  I had been under the misapprehension that it didn't grow here on 'the mainland' as it likes it warm.
I am coming up fairly short on recipes for same on t'internet though so wondered if anyone else had any ideas?  The Plants For A Future page seems to have the most handy information I've seen so far - just from a very small amount of googling this morning.  Interestingly it also includes cultivation info - may just be worth a try.  I might recommend it to my Ma as well as several other sites suggested that it works to deter deer from your garden.  She suffers from the deer that live in the woods opposite coming and eating all her pansy flowers in the front window boxes each year - they very neatly just take the flowers which understandably does vex her rather!
This image I'm not so sure of - it looks a lot like Navelwort to me but the leaves seem very large.  That's the chaps hand there too - not mine.  (Although there's not that much difference in size between our hands tbh...)  Navelwort can be eaten raw or cooked and I'd imagine would add a lovely crunch to salads but as ever with foraging - you must must be 500% sure what a wild plant is before you think of eating it.  So - a bit more research needed on this one I guess.  In fact I am leaning more and more towards it not being Navelwort - the leaves of Navelwort are apparently generally the size of a human navel so these are deffo way too big.  Hmm - wonder what it is then?

Lastly I gathered some 'Jack by the Hedge' (garlic mustard) a couple of day back and made a vaguely Greek style pie with it in.  I shall endeavour to post that later or in the next day or so but - I will not treat it as a 'fail' if I don't.

Today (here in the UK) it's Father's Day.  Dad was 'got' by cancer in 2005 and I think of him every single day.  Often that is what gets me moving when that malaise tries to descend; the sense of not wanting to let him down and still to show I can do my best.  Anyway, I thought I'd share this picture of my parents getting married back in 1969.  It's not the best pic but it sits on my mantelshelf alongside one of my mother at 21 and I love it.  Look at Ma's hemline!!!
We never know how long we may be here for so love your important people and hold them tight as they could get snatched away without warning nor quarter given.  x

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Overdue Avocado - Fruit No Waste Food challenge

Using up fruit was this month's No Waste Food Challenge hosted over at Elizabeth's Kitchen for Kate at Turquoise Lemons.  Now it may seem strange but we don't often have fruit that needs using up; I'm more of a 'when I want it I'll go and buy it and eat it there and then' kind of person when it comes to fruit.  A large swathe of the recipes out there for using up fruit seem to focus on bananas as well and as I can't stand the smell of them (it makes me nauseous) they aren't allowed in the house!
However - one fruit I occasionally forget about and then have to use up is avocados.  I love avocados; and I know they're a love it or hate it kind of thing, I think primarily because of the texture for a lot of people.  What I don't like is the whopping price tag stupormarkets seem to put on them, especially when they're often half the price in Aldi or the greengrocers.  As they're massively high in calories too I tend to just have them as an occasional treat.  I will get them when they're reduced on the CFC with the good old yellow sticker on but I find that they're invariably still too hard to eat so have to be stashed for a few days to ripen and soften up.  This is when I sometimes forget about them and end up having to chop some of the more brown portions out meaning any ideas of a pretty fan of slices for presentation has gone out of the window.  (I know, I know - how very 70's eh?!) 
So - a recipe where the avocado makes it's appearance in chunks or mashed would be a good one to utilise.  The obvious one is guacamole which I love but I fancied something different.  A warm cheesy treat on toasted bread... I give you - the avocado melt.  :-)
If you have any 'overdue' avocados to use make sure to chop any brown / black bits out as they will ruin the taste otherwise.  Just use the green bits.  Mash them with some grated cheese to your taste - I use mature cheddar for preference.  Season with some ground black pepper and a little splash of lemon or lime juice if liked.
Toast your bread - I use seeded wholegrain style stuff.  Spread liberally with the avocado and cheese mix and sprinkle a little additional cheese over the top then grill until melty and lovely.  Easy unctuous goodness packed with nutrients that would otherwise have gone in the bin - what could be better?  [Apologies for the lack of photo - having probs getting it off the card.]  If you have a couple of sad mushrooms or a tomato lurking in the fridge to use up then give them a quick slice (and cook in the case of the sh'rooms) and pop them on the toast before covering with the avocado and cheese.  This guy has some other ideas on the same lines.
There's info on the nutritional value and loads of recipes on this site amongst others   Apparently they're not as high in calories as I thought according to that site so if only the price would come down I'd have them more often.  :-)
Another of my fave ways of using up avocados is this lovely avocado and lime ice-cream I made before.  Do give it a try - it's waaay nicer than you might think if you've only had avocados as a savoury item before.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Random Recipe - Koresht-e-Gheimeh Khalal baby!

Or 'Barberry and Almond Casserole'.
Oh yes - once more Dom's Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen pulled a corker of randomness out of the bag for me!  This month we were tasked with using his all singing all dancing (ok, not really but he's working on it) random number generator to pick our books with.  I then followed his lead and used it to pick the page too and I ended up with the above from the rather sumptuous Veggiestan.  This was a gift from my Ma two birthdays back and I'm ashamed to admit that although I have pored lovingly over it's velvet trimmed exterior (yes, really) and it's beautifully photographed recipes on the inside I had yet to cook from it.
So - a casserole with barberrys in (what are they?) and almonds and - oh yes - dried limes.  'Cos I always have a bag of those handy eh??!  Luckily our local Indian (plus rest of the world) food shop Heera came up trumps and I was soon kitted out with the necessary items.
I had never heard of Barberrys before but a quick google told me they're an incredibly good for you
superfood which used to be cultivated here and in Europe but fell out of favour as they carried a wheat virus.  They're a traditional Persian / Iranian ingredient but you must treat them correctly.  (Articles I saw on line neglected to mention this bit.)  Veggiestan told me that they contain barbs (as per the name) so soak them in water for 15 mins first and the barbs and any grit will sink out.  Squeeze the berries out then use.  It also advised against eating them raw.
This was an easy recipe to make although I did wonder at the instruction to serve it with brown rice as it already included a fair amount of potato.  Once I'd tasted it half way through cooking though I realised it had the sort of intense flavour hit that needs soaking up with something like that.  I served ours with fairly authentic bulgar wheat instead as it was too late to do brown rice at that point.  Otherwise I stuck faithfully to the recipe and served with plain yogurt and fresh herbs (coriander) on top and some fairly inauthentic asparagus and tenderstem calabrese.  :-)
Verdict - both the Chap and I liked this although I wouldn't say we're straining at the bit to make it again immediately.  (From a food miles point of view it is not a good one - barberrys from Iran, dried limes from Egypt...)  It was fairly sharp - the potatoes soaked up the lime flavour a lot and the barberrys aren't overly sweet though they definitely added a fruitier edge to the flavour; more noticeable if you had some in the sauce without any spud.  I liked it with a fair bit of yogurt stirred through as I found that took the edge off the sharpness a little and I enjoyed it more like that.  So - a random win overall and certainly something I'm extremely unlikely to have tried had it not been for good old RR throwing it out at me.  I live in dread look forward to seeing what next month brings...  ;-)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lemon & Ginger Soba Noodles with Tofu and Salmon Gari and no Matcha ice-cream...yet

This month's country for Bloggers Around the World hosted by Chris at Cooking around the World was here.
Japan.  I love oriental/asian food generally but hadn't cooked anything specifically Japanese before so went on search on t'interwebs for a suitable clutch of recipes.  I had soba noodles in the cupboard to use up as well as tofu so picked this tasty sounding lemon and ginger recipe from Steamy Kitchen.
Incidentally there's a great recipe resource here on the Eat-Japan site that allows you to pick by ingredient type, seasoning, time needed etc.
I wanted to try more than one recipe out and in my travels I came across this baked salmon recipe with gari - the pickled ginger you get with sushi.  I love this stuff so this recipe intrigued me and sounded super simple and quick to make.  Turn oven on - lay salmon in greased dish and scatter gari over the top.  Bake.
I'm not going to put the whole soba noodle recipe here - you need to visit the link to check it out but with lemon, ginger, honey, cayenne, soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil in the dressing plus toasted sesame seeds
you know it's punchy and flavourful.  I halved the amounts of noodles and tofu as the recipe is for 4, although I realised afterward I used the amount of dressing that was for 4 peoples noodles on the halved amount - it was very well flavoured!
The tofu was tasteless - the recipe says to fry until browned - I'm now convinced (having never cooked with tofu before) that this is an unobtainable fallacy as no matter how high I turned my pan and how long
I left the tofu no browning was occurring.  It just started sticking instead.  :-( I think for tofu in future I'll stick to my instinct that says it needs a lot of marinading first to make it taste of anything.
The salmon I liked - but then I love salmon anyway.  I did find it a little on the sweet side but gari can vary in sweetness a lot - a different brand that I have a jar of at work is nothing like as sweet as the one I had here.  I think this dish would be improved vastly by using a less sweet gari but it was interesting to try as a flavour combination.
Lastly - it must be dessert surely?  Well - I had a sachet of Matcha (green tea) powder in the cupboard I've been looking to do something with for a while and after having had Matcha ice-cream once at the local 'Steaks n Sushi' restaurant which I had loved this seemed the obvious answer.  So - I found this very simple sounding recipe at Just One Cookbook - one of many great Japanese food blogs out there.  Then - I ran out of time.
This post should have been up yesterday and although I made the salmon and noodles yesterday I only got to writing it up now so....the ice-cream will have to be a different post.  I shall make it though and let you know how it goes.

Yesterday we had to scarf down the noodles - super yum we decided - then run to catch the rugby bus to see Chiefs beat London Irish 27-6 to get us into the top 6 that would mean we're in the Heineken Cup again next year.  Fingers crossed we can stay there!!