Category Archives: Cookery

Rice + Marketing = Special Fried Rice

We have a dish in the UK, found in all Chinese Takeaways, called Special Fried Rice (or variations on the name). Americans may call it something different (though on checking, I found that you don’t), and anyone of Chinese ancestry may not even recognise it as Chinese cuisine. However, like Chicken Tikka Masala, it is now part of British life.

I made a version of it last tonight. It features the three inch end piece of a wrinkly courgette, a half red pepper with a couple of black spots on it, last week’s mushrooms, some green beans I found while looking for the courgette and, finally, some prawns with freezer burn. Yes, It’s a bit like my soup recipe – loads of imperfect ingredients in a random order – but you add rice instead of blending it all. It has garlic, mango chutney and chilli in it. It was going to have chilli jam, lemon juice and soy sauce, but I seem to have used the chilli jam, the soy sauce bottle turned out to be empty and the lemon, which was actually just a half lemon, proved to be too far gone even for me. I’m hoping to fool Julia into thinking I actually used a recipe.

I just had a look at recipes and find that Americans do have it, and that they use SPAM in it. As Number Two Son’s partner is from the Philippines I know about SPAM (a food I haven’t eaten for 50 years), so I wasn’t too surprised. However, I was surprised to find that they add MSG. I didn’t even know it was possible to buy it, let alone that you would want to add it.

Naturally, my mind then drifted onto the possibilities for a literary twist to end the post. Something along the lines of my life being like Special Fried Rice – a random mix of imperfect ingredients that isn’t really Special, just leftovers with a sheen of marketing. But I decided that was too cynical, even for me.

Mouse on Wheatsheaf Loaf

The photos? I have one, unattractive, photo tagged “rice” but these were in the same month so I used these.

Day 121

I finally got round to soup making. It was going to be roasted sweet potato soup, but as I lined up a group of hapless sweet potatoes, I noticed a bag of carrots lurking at the back of the veg rack. The trouble with my grocery ordering is that it can be a bit unadventurous and if, for instance, you get bored of carrots, but carry on ordering, you soon end up with a sorry-looking assortment. Add that to the bag of wrinkly ginger and my course of action became clear.

I now have a pan of carrot and ginger soup waiting for tomorrow’s lunch. and  a pan of roasting vegetables, mostly carrots, in the oven. As a result of ill-advised handling of my stick blender I also have some new colours on the wall and on my jumper. Fortunately, it will wash. Luckily I had not added turmeric.

As I say, unadventurous.

In a moment I will be warming a few greens and making some gravy. It will be made using gravy granules as I am lazy and have no pride in my cookery. In an ideal world I would be wearing an apron and making gravy from scratch as a cheerful family gathered round. That is how gravy is so often portrayed. You don’t often see gravy adverts where a single man in a bedsit makes a pan of gravy, livens it up with a good slug of cheap vodka and sits down to eat amongst the dust, regrets and tortured memories of times with his family . . .

Julia says I am no loss to the world of advertising.

In actually started off in quite an upbeat mood and intended talking about poppies. I am going to serve up now and think about a second post.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Day 110

I’ve been reviewing my soup making. The celery was disappointing, but apart from that the others haven’t been too bad. However, at this point I have to admit that “the others” generally means root vegetable soups, and they are difficult to mess up. I’ve also done mushroom, pea, broccoli and cauliflower, which have all been passable. The roasted squash soup I did last week was very good, but by the time I’d finished roasting the frozen squash chunks they had shrunk to almost nothing, and I ended up with just two portions. I know that roasting the veg adds to the flavour, but I feel guilty about using the oven just to roast in a bit of extra flavour.

I really need to extend my repertoire, but that would mean buying ingredients specially and that isn’t how I view soup. Soup is mainly what happens to stuff you have had too long. Yes, the pea soup and the roasted squash soup featured specially bought ingredients, but all the rest were just things I had too much of.

It’s my day off today and Julia has gone on a course to brush up on her Makaton so I am faced with a long boring day. I could look up some interesting soup recipes . . .

Or I could look at some Makaton videos and surprise her tonight by asking her if she wants a cup of tea by signing. Perhaps not. After a day of training she can probably do with a cup of tea without additional difficulty.

Soup recipes then . . .

Day 92

It’s cold again. By our standards anyway. So, when confronted by a menu choice featuring either root vegetables or salad, we went for the roots. We’ll be going that way again tomorrow. After that I’m hoping that the weather will improve as I have quite a lot of salad ingredients to use, and the difference between salad and green slime is only a few days in some cases. I will use the spinach for greens and the rocket in sandwiches and the lettuce probably has a few more days in it, so it will all end well. That’s why I prefer coleslaw to green salad. A cabbage does not, in my experience, become green slime. It may become fossilised, but it takes a long time and you get plenty of chance to eat it.

Looking at the weather charts I’m planning roasted veg with sausages and onion sauce tomorrow, pasties and roasted veg for Monday and probably vegetable stew for Tuesday. The leftover stew will make soup for Wednesday lunch and we can use the pizza bases to make pizza and coleslaw for the evening. Thursday? Well that’s quite a long time in the future. I don’t plan so far ahead these days. Possibly pasta or curry. We have the ingredients, we just need the motivation.

I’m trying to lose more weight and you can probably tell that from the length at which I talk about it.

Recently we have generally had good deliveries, with most of the stuff I order being delivered. Where I haven’t been as successful is in being able to order everything I want. There are still gaps, including loose parsnips. It’ not a problem, as bagged parsnips taste just the same. The only difference is that the plastic bags are killing the planet and I am trying to cut down on them.

Day 91

Veggie burgers tonight. Unfortunately after letting them slip off the menu for the last year or so, I seem to have lost the knack. I mixed and mashed beans, garlic, spring onions, mushrooms, nuts, breadcrumbs, cumin, smoked paprika, Worcester Sauce and fresh coriander and produce a soft brown mix which seemed reasonably firm as I made four burgers. Twenty minutes later I removed them from the oven,  prodded them and decided to put them back. ten more minutes failed to firm them up so I carefully removed them from the baking sheet and flopped them onto our plates with the Spanish potatoes and coleslaw.

As I said to Julia, if I had told her it was a sort of Scandinavian soft bean hash she would probably have believed me. The flavour was right, even if the consistency (and colour) looked like something familiar to all country dwellers who walk through fields of cows.

No, I didn’t take photos. It’s not something I want to dwell on.

I’m going to stop reading recipes with “easy” and “simple” in the titles. They often aren’t, and even when thy are, they often fail o be much good. This one, mind you, was all down to me. Having looked at various recipes I made one up based on the contents of the fridge. Next time I’ll look for a complicated one featuring oatmeal and eggs and I’ll try for a burger that doesn’t bend when you pick it up.

Spanish potatoes are just English potatoes, before you get too excited. They are tossed in oil with garlic and smoked paprika before being roasted. They look alarmingly red but don’t taste as interesting as I had hoped.

Not an unqualified success but nice to feel I’m getting my interest in cookery back.

The picture is from last time I made veggie burgers.

Day 69

Pizza tonight, with lots of coleslaw. The coleslaw was home made. The pizza wasn’t. Pizza for lunch tomorrow and probably for tea. However, I will make a large green salad for that, well you wouldn’t want the menu to become boring, would you?

I have also done a vegetable stew and pea and mint soup. It was time I got round to it, but our soup needs for the week had been filled by liquidising last Saturday’s vegetable stew. Frugality and a high fibre diet both have many things to recommend them.

I didn’t photograph the coleslaw because, with white cabbage, it tends to look bland. Also, the pumpkin seeds I put in it look like mouse droppings from certain angles. My cooking is basic, but my food photography is even less refined. However, I thought I’d better take some new photographs for the blog.

The soup is the simplest I make (Apart from the one I will describe later). Soften some onions, add peas and a stock cube, boil for a few minutes, add some torn mint leaves and then liquidise.

The easiest? It’s the leftover stew that becomes soup, but it isn’t really a recipe, so I’m not sure if it counts.

Vegetable stew

The lighting wan’t very good, so I resorted to flash. It still looks rather light and I’m going to pretend I had a soft focus filter on.

Tch! The date just changed, so it’s now day 70. A fifth of the year gone and the best I can say I’ve achieved is that I’ve made pea and mint soup. It is very good soup, but it isn’t quite the same as winning a Nobel Prize or winning the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. I fear they may both be beyond my grasp . . .

Day 66

I changed yesterday’s menu slightly, but as some people read it I won’t go back and change it in the post. I will, however, add a couple of items to the list – I used some leeks to bulk out the onions (I’m using ready chopped onions to save effort for my hands and didn’t want to open a new pack). I also did stir-fried greens to give us a better selection of vegetables.

Greens are one of those things that are a problem when you take Warfarin as they contain a lot of Vitamin K, which is the antidote to Warfarin. That’s why I had a problem a few months ago (the nurse spotted the problem immediately – seems they always see it around Christmas time when the Brussels sprouts start). I’m now trying to keep up my consumption of greens because I need to be consistent with my diet, and because they are healthy and low carb.

I really should start counting the number of different types of fruit and vegetables we eat in a week. It’s vey easy to get into a rut when you order online from the menu headed “My  Favourites”.

It appears that you really need a diet based on 30 types of fruit and veg if you are to achieve optimal gut health. That’s quite a lot.

Prawn linguine with rocket, tomato (and spaghetti)

Last week we had leeks, onion, garlic, carrots, parsnips, swede (rutabaga), sweet potato, celery, tomato, mushrooms, cauliflower, oranges, apples, pears and figs. I’m not sure if you are allowed to count potatoes and rice, you can’t for your five a day, so I won’t count them. That’s fifteen. You can count fresh herbs, so that’s coriander and thyme (though I’m not clear if adding it then removing it before serving counts). You can count spices so that adds ginger. I’m pretty sure that stuff sprinkled from a jar doesn’t count, so just the one. The article counts oats in muesli, so oats in porridge must count, as does the wheat in Weetabix, I suppose. Blue berries and bananas – nearly forgot them. We don’t eat enough chillies to qualify, I’m sure. I think that’s it. And peanut butter – it’s nuts.

We didn’t have any seeds, nuts or pulses, partly because I’m not a natural eater of seeds and partly because Julia mutters every time I used chick peas, lentils or beans. She will have to get used to it, because if we are going to have 30 a week we will need them.

That’s 24 because I just remembered I had avocados on Wednesday. I’m actually quite pleased with that.

Nasi Goreng

It leaves six extra to find but if I add chick peas, beans and lentils, plus peas in the soup I just need to add broccoli, peppers, courgettes (which are all easy enough) and we’re on  – thirty one.

Time for me to confess now – though I blame Julia for the lack of pulses, I’m to blame for the lack of Mediterranean style vegetables as I don’t like them roasted and got fed up of ratatouille because we ate so much of it as we transferred to a semi-vegetarian diet in lockdown.

Avocado and Wild Garlic on Sourdough

If I were to use a subtitle for this post it would be – I can cook and I can eat vegetables – I just prefer takeaways and cake! And that, in one sentence, is the reason why I weigh too much.


Day 61

Day 61 came. Day 61 went. I slept through the end of it and am writing this a little late. That’s the trouble with Julia being on holiday, there is no bustle and packing of bags in preparation for tomorrow. It was one of then better things about lockdown and something to look forward to when we retire. That and getting up when I feel like it instead of when the clock demands it.

Counting the days is becoming more difficult now that I have three months to consider. I will, no doubt, get used to it.

In poetry terms, Obsessed with Pipework is out, and I am in it. I can’t point you to a link because it is not online and I can’t quote myself because I should give them some time before I do that. Not sure how long as, unlike some magazines, they don’t specify. I will do it in a couple of months if I remember. I like OWP because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Nor does it let the process of not taking itself seriously become too serious, which is a fault of some magazines that try not to take themselves too seriously, if that makes sense.

Quality poems, captivating covers, laid back attitude and the editorial good taste to accept my work. That is an excellent magazine.

Today’s vegetable soup, which saw the end of several manky carrots, a fossilised parsnip and half a bag of ready cubed swede  from the supermarket, turned out to be quite good. It also had onions and chilli. It was golden beige in colour and quite tasty with little red spots from the chillies. I foolishly put my taste-buds out of commission during the cooking because the chilli didn’t seem to be flavouring the soup. I added more, then more again. Still no result. So I tasted a slice (I was using fresh ones from the shop). Turns out that the slice I tasted was a great deal hotter than the previous slices I had added to the soup.

Day 58

The header picture is the roasted vegetables from a couple of nights ago when we had the cauliflower cheese. The roots have cumin sprinkled on them and the cauliflower has smoked paprika on it. The effect was mainly cosmetic in the case of the cauli, as i didn’t notice any change in flavour. However, it did look more interesting when it came out of the oven and after over 30 years of making as little effort as possible, I was happy just to cook something that looked a bit more interesting. Thirty years and I’ve graduated to smoked paprika. Who knows what dizzy heights I might achieve in another 30 years?

Apart from that it doesn’t feel as if the last week has brought much in the way of progress.

I’m getting back into the swing of things with writing, but even that is feeling like more of the same, rather than moving forward.

It looks like I am going to have to go back to writing lists of things to do. I know that some people disagree with them but I have always found them useful. However, I do tend to sloth, drifting and procrastination and I need something to combat that.

As long as I start with (1) Make a list of things to do and (2) Drift off to make cup of tea and check eBay I will at least get two things a day done from my list.

This is my resolution for the coming week. In the meantime I am going to go and make a cup of tea. We have shortbread biscuits and they aren’t going to eat themselves . . .

Some Feelgood Photos

Stilton and Date Scones

Yes, I admit that I could have included kittens, puppies and seals, or even smiling babies and teddy bears, but none of them really make me as happy as pictures of home baking. I really should start doing more of it, but my hands make it difficult. Maybe a mixer is in order. I could also have included pictures of Julia but that would just be sentimental, and, let’s face it, most people would rather see scones.

The scones in the picture above are Date and Stilton Cheese scones – my own recipe. They are better than they sound, in case you don’t like Stilton, because the Stilton flavour doesn’t really come out in them. If you do like Stilton they are slightly disappointing, for the same reason.

Grantham Gingerbreads

Tricky biscuits because they are supposed to open up and be hollow in the middle. I’ve never quite got that right, though they taste OK and look alright on the outside. Only made them twice because, to be honest, they are more trouble than they are worth.

Peppermint Creams

I like peppermint creams but I may as well just inject myself with glucose syrup as they are basically just sugar with a bit of extra effort thrown in. The most important thing about making them was that they pick up any bit of loose colour in the cooking area. They even managed to take up blue from the chequered table covering.

Gingerbread Men

Probably should be called gingerbread people in these days of political concern. Or Gender Fluid Gingers, as there is no actual indication of gender. This would probably annoy  people with ginger hair…

OK, they are biscuits with ginger in them. Since when did biscuits get so political?

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

Mouse on Wheatsheaf Loaf

These are useless because you can’t actually eat them, but they were always nice to make.  Not only was it good to feel artistic for once, bu it was nice to be part of an ancient tradition.