Category Archives: Cookery

Iranian Vegetable Stew

This recipe is apparently ‘inspired’ by Persian stews. which tends to suggest it isn’t actually a traditional recipe.

You need an onion, potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes and spinach, plus optional dried cranberries and Greek yoghurt.

The kit provides Ras-el-Hanout, tomato paste and mushroom stock.

It’s spicy and ful;l of flavour but I’m pretty sure that a jar of Ras-el-Hanout plus tomato puree and vegetable stock will do the business without the special spice kit.

We had another delivery of spice kits today as the ordering system has nowhere we can cancel. As Julia hadn’t finished registering we thought we may be in the clear but it popped through door today in the post.

Julia fired off a strongly worded protest via an email address she found, and we won’t be getting any more kits unless we order them.

Iranian Vegetable Stew

Iranian Vegetable Stew

The four kits delivered today are for Tamil Black Pepper Chicken, Jalfrezi, Red Lentil Curry and Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew). I’m OK with three of them, but not thrilled by the idea of fish stew. It’s like skydiving – never done it, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.

The Fading Sky

As I sit at the table to type I look out at a strip of pale blue sky under a layer of cloud. The cloud is touched by light along its lower edge but after that margin of hope, is grey and dead. This has been the pattern of the day, grey with a little brightness, and as I write the illuminated stripe is fading and the blue is becoming grey.

Last night we remarked on the richness of the sunset. I have pictured it before so I decided not to bother with another set of photos, but now I regret that decision. There will be other sunsets, but it’s foolish to squander them in the same way I did when I was an optimistic youth.

Julia is muttering in the kitchen as she uses an wok and a spice kit to produce linguine with prawns and rocket (arugula). It would be unkind, and unwise, to draw parallels between this and the opening scene of Macbeth, but the sky, the muttering and the spice kit are all inclining me to that sort of thinking.

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

The prawn linguine with rocket is subtly different from the version suggested in the kit. I didn’t feel the need to order liguine, for instance, as we have plenty of spaghetti and it’s near enough the same. We didn’t have rocket either because I pressed the normal button in my favourites whilst shopping and ordered rocket and baby leaf salad. This gives a slightly different effect and was the subject of some of the muttering.

Although the greens were wrong, it wasn’t me who stirred them all into the meal instead of strewing half of them artistically on top.

It was quite like last night’s experience – a few substitutions and a tasty meal. We’ve made this sort of linguine before, though the seasoning with the spice kit is much better. I am torn when it comes to seasoning – professionals do it better but they use more stuff, including more salt. I try to steer clear of salt.

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Tomorrow we will having chicken pie with roast veg and the night after it will be the Iranian Vegetable Stew with the spice kit. Then it will be Thursday night – vegetarian stir fry followed by a new delivery of groceries from TESCO. This week I’m going to make sure I prepare a proper menu, as I’ve been relying on luck and repeating last week’s shopping for the last month.

We started lockdown by being organised and eating a lot of vegetarian options but over time we have reverted to more meat and convenience. We have also started eating fish and chips every week, though that is partly due to wanting to support the local chip shop, rather than a desire for takeaway food. We were already moving away from takeaways before lockdown, but it has certainly helped us stick to it. Our diet is healthier as a result and we are spending less.

I wonder what my diet will be like this time next year. If it’s still healthy I will tell you. If it isn’t, I’ll pretend to forget to tell you.

The teasel is from the front garden – we think they must have seeded from bird seed. The day lily is from the Mencap garden when we visited today to feed the wormery and do a few other jobs. Yes, this a ‘day off’ for a married man. The food has already been covered.

Day Lily Mencap Garden Nottingham

Day Lily Mencap Garden Nottingham

 

Nasi Goreng

One of the spice mixes we got last week was for nasi goreng. It’s Indonesian fried rice for those of you who aren’t fluent in Indonesian. I covered that last week, and also mentioned I first wanted to eat it after reading about it in my dad’s Somerset Maugham books.

As I write that I realise it was rijsttafel I’m thinking about, which is similar, but not nasi goreng. Sometimes I worry about my memory. Other times, of course, I just forget.

There are many recipes on the internet and I’ll definitely be making it again once I’ve been shopping. There is a quick and simple vegetarian version I’m keen to try next. In this version the egg is kept as a fried egg. In the version we had earlier it is stirred into the rice and meat mix.

You can buy the various spices from TESCO or other online retailers. They do a spice kit similar to the one we used tonight, and nasi goreng paste, They have also had ketjap manis, but there is none in stock at the moment. You can make your own with soy sauce and sugar.

The rice is a bit dark because I’m working my way through our stock of microwave rice (bought to tide us over when there were shortages) and this contains lentils and quinoa.

Once we have depleted the stocks I will buy some more in preparation for Brexit, which is back on the news again.

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Nasi Goreng with cucumber and tomato pickle

 

Wednesday 8th July Part IV

Poppy and chamomile

The day is passing faster and faster.

Julia is on the phone to one of her needier clients. Again, I cannot describe the conversation due to issues of confidentiality, but it is circular. And long. And, as it is on something modern like an app or a zoom, it is loud and intrusive too. She might be working from home but technically this is a day off for me, even if I am treating it as a work day. Obviously in this context “work” is an expression of hope rather than fact.

I have researched a number of magazines as recipients for the articles I wish to write. I have read several of the magazines more deeply than necessary and I have made a list of possible articles. My plan is at the stage known as “getting there”. In other words it is a rag-bag of elements which don’t amount to much.

It is more of an intention or an outline. Time for some more work, but this time I will do it in front of the TV whilst watching Pointless. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Ironically that’s a very dull saying. Equally ironically, I haven’t done much work.

Back again…

Having watched Pointless and failed in a few rounds – notably the modern music and the football questions – I meant to get back to work. Instead, I watched Eggheads. It is one of the dullest quizzes around, but we had tea and biscuits and I can never resist temptation to sit and drink tea, with or without biscuits. As a late lunch we had corn on the cob (Julia went out for a walk and, as usual, nipped into a shop to buy something. She can’t break the habit. Today she bought corn on the cob.)

I am quite hungry now and have just put the vegetables into the oven to roast. Carrots, parsnips, leeks and potatoes. I will put sprouts in when I put the pasties in. It’s a meal we have nearly every week but I never get fed up of it. Apart from being year round comfort food, it’s healthy and easy to make.

It’s been eleven hours since I started “work” and I have not managed to complete anything yet, apart from some TV viewing and three blog posts.

As I started this one I noticed my total was 2,000 which means I missed the chance to write a post about reaching my 2,000th post. I may have to plough on to 2,020 before marking the occasion.

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I’m now going to put the pasties in and about 25 minutes after that will make the gravy. It’s only made with gravy granules, so is nothing exciting. Then I had better get the shopping ordered. I only have until midnight and it can be a slow process. I also get distracted easily.

I have already done the shopping list relating to the spice kits – we will be having linguine with prawns and rocket. I’m not sure why, because we make that anyway.

We are also having Iranian Vegetable Stew, which apparently takes its inspiration from Persia and North Africa. This tends to suggest it isn’t really Iranian or a proper recipe, just some vegetables to soak up some spices they wanted to get rid of. Pardon my cynicism. I keep meaning to give ras-el-hanout a try, so this is my chance.

Finally we will be having nasi goreng. I’ve wanted to try it since I read about it as a teenager reading my dad’s Somerset Maugham books. It’s typical that I’ve always steered clear of cooking it in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. Next week will be an interesting time.

I will try to take photographs before I eat everything.

Photos are recycled from here.

Eleven Photos and the Benefits of Blogging

Mint Moth

Wednesday 8th July Part I

Wednesday 8th July Part II

Wednesday 8th July Part III

Wednesday 8th July Part IV

Wednesday 8th July Part V

A Cheap and Easy Meal

Take a bag of ready chopped stir-fry veg, a pack of noodles and some sauce. Put them in a wok, mix them together and let them heat through.

It takes ten minutes, is very simple and is safe for those of us with poor knife skills.

I ordered it from TESCO as a special offer package deal on our last Click & Collect order but they didn’t have any sauce so they just sent me the veg and noodles. I wasn’t happy and really, if they don’t have all three offer items, they shouldn’t just send you two. Fortunately I had suitable sauce so we were OK.

Cost about £2 for two large portions. It could have been cheaper if we’d cut our own veg into little strips but a few pence seems good value to avoid cutting my fingers. It’s healthy, though I’m sure the sauce has a lot of sugar in it.

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Stir Fry Vegetables

Note how I have avoided mentioning flavour. It’s quite bland, even with a good helping of plum sauce, and the bean sprouts can be overpowering. It would probably benefit from some prawns or meat, but as we are trying to cut down our meat consumption, we are trying to like the taste of vegetables.

That isn’t quite fair, as I do like the taste of carrots, parsnips, peas, beans, chickpeas, broccoli, cabbage and onions, to name just a few. It’s bean sprouts I’m not that keen on, they are watery and they somehow seem to kill the flavour of the meal. They aren’t just tasteless, they seem to drain flavour and make everything else seem less tasty. When we are doing our own stir fry we tend not to use them, though I suppose we really should start growing our own as they are cheap and easy.

Cottage Pie

Inspired by the box of meals that I had for my birthday, I decided to make meatballs. That involved buying mince, which we haven’t had for over six months as part of our new healthy eating regime.

As a result, we had a very pleasant meal of meatballs, mashed potatoes and greens. I used nutmeg and chilli as seasoning and it seemed to work well to make a Swedish style meatball. Unfortunately I broke the blender whilst making the bread crumbs (put the lid on wrong, twisted and locked it all together in the wrong place). It won’t switch on and I can’t get it to release itself so I can try again. As a result the kitchen was a mess by the time I’d finished – a broken blender, the mess from making meatballs and, even worse, the debris from making breadcrumbs using a hand blender, a mixing ball and a lid fashioned from a tea towel.

No, I didn’t take photos.

However, this left us with quite a lot of mince left over. That left three choices – cottage pie, spaghetti bolognese or chilli. I suppose the title spoils the surprise.

I softened onions and browned the mince, added a stock cube, Hendersons, mushrooms and, at the last minute spinach. I was working on the principle of using what was too hand and needed using up. As I’d made a vegetable soup earlier in the day I didn’t have as much choice as I normally do, and couldn’t be bothered to chop more veg.

Top with mustard mash and grilled with a cheesy topping, it turned out reasonably well. I wouldn’t normally use cheese, but ordering food by delivery rather than shopping myself has meant we have more of some things than we need.

We had it with stir-fried black kale, because we are quite trendy. Though some of the black bits are there because I fried too much and stirred too little.

Note: this is the second post of the day. The first is here. The first one is more interesting but this one makes my mouth water.

Cottage Pie and black kale

Cottage Pie and black kale

 

 

 

The Secret Life of a Blogger

I’ve just been looking down the list off drafts for the last week. They are also known as false starts, ideas and notes and are there for various reasons.

Last night’s effort stalled after 200 words on the grounds that it was depressing. I can’t see much in it worth salvaging and when I have a clear-out it will probably go. It falls in the gap between being entertaining and cathartic, and that’s a very dull and self-indulgent gap.

The one before that has a copy of Agatha Christie’s Great War VAD record Card, and I have not yet written anything to go with it. I may or may not develop that. Again, it’s just going to be a re-hash of available facts and I’m not sure I can add anything useful to the amount that has been written about her.

The third is my drfat for the 12th May Mass Observation Diary. I’m not sure whether it would serve any purpose if I sent it in.

Fourth is a five line false start on dead badgers. It probably needs a recipe to get it going again. That was originally going to be about blood tests but it was overtaken by the phone call requiring a repeat test. When I returned I started the post again.

Fifth is the start of the original 1926 post. I started that the night before my 1926th post, which ended up being about blood tests. It was not as good as the opening I eventually used. This is saying something, as the opening I used will hardly go down in history with “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

For more good opening lines read here. I must try harder. It’s slightly depressing that a search for ‘best opening lines’ resulted in six sites offering conversational openers for Tinder. They aren’t all great lines, though I did like – “Do you have an ugly boyfriend? No? Want one?”

I’m going to try that on Julia.

The next two are about regimental brooches. Whether they are attempts to bore my readers or drafts for articles, I’m not quite sure, but I have plenty of photographs and I may well put something together to teach you about regimental brooches and the depths of a collector’s soul.

Finally we reach back to Scone Chronicles 38. It was written just before lockdown and I lost the photos. It features scones and Sir Bradley Piggins.

This isn’t quite an accurate account, as I cleared out a few weeks ago and these are just the eight most recent. The real stinkers get binned regularly.

Do you have a similar system, or are all your starts true sparkling jewels of blogging excellence? Or do you clear out more often? I still have some from years ago, where I’m hoping to use a title or a well-turned phrase at some point in the future. I am, in psychological terms, a hoarding optimist.

Finally, the pictures are from the  chickpea and peanut butter curry we had from the boxes last night. It was the one I’d looked forward to most eagerly, and the biggest disappointment, as it was tasty but not spicy. I liked the meatballs and the pork steaks better. However, we will be incorporating it into our menu rotation as a variation on the veggie curries we already make. The two photos show natural light and flash versions of the same meal. The one with flash (seen here) is much more welcoming.

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Thai red curry – chickpeas and peanut butter

I could have done without the roasted broccoli, which seems to have been a feature of the three meals (it’s covered in sauce in this picture) and there was enough lime with the grated zest on the rice, without using the wedges provided.

Of course, as soon as I say that, WP decides to stop showing me my photographs…

A Meal in a Box

We dined on one of the meals from the birthday present box last night. It contained potatoes, shredded greens, garlic, pork steaks, squares of strong Cheddar and a pot of onion marmalade made by Tracklements, the top notch pickle company. All the ingredients were good and the recipe sheet had a colour picture and clear instructions.

To be honest, I could have sourced the ingredients and made pork steaks with cheese and onion topping with potato wedges and garlic greens without the instructions. However, after weeks of lockdown it’s comforting to be given a meal that hasn’t taken a lot of thought. More to the point, it’s nice to have something different too. We have been getting very dull with our menu. It’s also nice to have something a bit more tasty than usual – I wouldn’t have added the onion marmalade and cheese if I’d been left to my own devices.

Tomorrow we will be having the meatballs with roast broccoli and cheesy mash. The same comments apply. I’d have used ready-made meatballs if left to my own devices, and I’d just have used beef with bread crumbs made from leftover crusts. The kit includes beef and pork mince (in two different packs) and a pack of panko breadcrumbs. It’s a much more elegant way to live.

If I was younger, and had a proper job, I would seriously consider buying a box every week. The quality of ingredients is good, the presentation is good and the result was good. However, I’m one of those old dogs that can’t learn new tricks. Apart from the question of buying a food kit that includes bits I don’t want (like all the cheese) there is the question of ordering things over a week in advance and having to be around to accept a delivery. They had some good ice packs in the box but minced meat and summer heat can be tricky.

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It’s meant to be meatballs – I really must work on my presentation.

Tonight we had the meatballs. It’s the first time I’ve used panko breadcrumbs and they were (a) dry and (b) pointless. I can’t see that they were any better than ordinary breadcrumbs for making meatballs. I have no doubt they are better for some things, but I’m not sure you need them in meatballs.

I just looked them up, and added the link, and see that they absorb less fat when being fried. If that’s a concern, I would have thought the easiest way to cut the fat would be to stop adding cheese to everything.

Tonight’s meal – meatballs with cheese mash and roasted broccoli was very nice but, to be honest, making meatballs does involve a bit more standing than I would have liked. The meal was, I think, tastier than last night’s meal, but the instruction sheet was less clear.

Having said that, they have both been excellent.

The only drawback is the aggressive marketing campaign of the company, which made me sign up for regular deliveries just to redeem the gift voucher, and which made it difficult to cancel. They have already invited me to give them another chance three times.

It has, however, persuaded me that I must start making my own meatballs again. They are so much better than the bought ones, though the bought ones are good because they keep well, which is important in lockdown.

Soup!

I have 28 minutes to post, and am going to give it my best shot. Please excuse the haste and the worse than normal editing.

Today’s main event, apart from a hospital phone call (which was a duplicate of the one I got yesterday) was the soup. We had half a dozen manky carrots, a medium sized parsnip and a swede (rutabaga) which was beginning to look a bit grey round the cut end. My solution – root veg soup.

This is a lockdown recipe, because with only shopping every week or ten days I’m not quite getting the supplies right and we needed to get through a few more roots.

I also had the green end of a leek, so I softened that and roasted the roots whilst cooking the tea last night. I then boiled it with stock and spices (2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, half a tsp of lazy chilli from a jar) and left it covered overnight. No need for a fridge, we are having a cold spell here at the moment. We always do once we start putting plants outside.

Today I added some lazy garlic from a jar, a touch more chilli and reduced it to a smooth consistency with a stick blender. I tried to leave  afew flecks of red, but they didn’t stand uput in the finished soup. Sometimes I use finely chopped red chillis – they stand out better.

The result was a nice beige soup with an interesting flavour and a touch of mild heat. I’m not sure that it needed the ground coriander, as I can never really taste it when I use stronger tasting spices.

Finally I added a spoonful of turmeric to brighten it up a bit. I’m not sure if the photos show it, but you get a slightly brighter orange/yellow soup when you do that.

Things I didn’t add – mushrooms and kale (despite kale being virtually compulsory in recipes these days. I thought mushrooms would be confusing, though they do need using soon, and I couldn’t be bothered to take the kale off the stalks (I didn’t want to spoil the consistency by putting stalks in. I was going to put kale in at the end rather than boil it with the rest of the veg.)

It made far more than we needed and we will be having it tomorrow too. And Friday. However, it’s good and cheap and you can have sandwiches with it so it helps dodge the salads.

The one on the left has no added colour, the one on the right has the turmeric added. The one in the header picture was taken with flash, which made it look a richer colour and wasn’t a fair comparison to the original beige.

Charred Red Pepper Dip

First char your pepper. I used the garden flamethrower again and it did a better job than it did on the aubergine last week.

I shoved it in the blender and added the half carton of soft cheese left over from the Smoked Mackerel Pate. It looked a bit watery as it went in. With hindsight I should have taken it as a warning. I may have said that before.

I think I’ve also said I will look at recipes instead of working from memory. I tried but I couldn’t find the one I wanted, and as I had the soft cheese ready I just blundered ahead.

Add some garlic and smoked paprika and blitz it. Mutter. Add bread. Add more bread. When it looks firmish taste and add black pepper. It needed seasoning but I didn’t want to add lime juice as it was already sloppy. Even with the bread it was not exactly firm so I drained it in a sieve and managed to produce something with a consistency like a soft humous. I note from my spellchecker that the Americans spell humous differently too. You live and learn.

Charred Red Pepper Dip

Charred Red Pepper Dip

It was just about firm enough to be  acceptable and tasted OK. It needs some work but we ate it all so it can’t have been too bad. The photograph makes it look like something from a post-mortem examination but in natural light it lacked that spongy, moist lung-like quality.

We had it with green leaves, tomatoes, crackers and falafels. I’m going to try making my own falafels. The spellchecker doesn’t like that either. Falafel, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is a variation of felafel. Google prefers falafel. The spellchecker doesn’t like either.

Before I do that I’m going to make sure I have all the ingredients and a recipe.

Flowers - detail

Flowers – detail

I thought I’d have another crack at the flowers. There’s not much else to photograph when you stay inside.