Category Archives: Cookery

A Cupboard Full of Treasure

I have just been rooting through a kitchen cupboard. It’s one I don’t often use as it’s awkward for me to reach. It’s awkward for Julia to reach too, but about a year ago she stood on a chair and rearranged it. She does this sometimes. Usually when I am out.

Tonight, whilst waiting for pasta to boil, I decided to have a quick look through the cupboard. It contains mainly pulses and such stuff and I thought it would be good to have a look through with a view to using some up.

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Pasta Bake

Imagine my surprise on moving the first few packets, to find that we had an unopened pack of spaghetti in there. Treasure indeed, in these times of shortage. And behind the cous cous and quinoa, I unearthed a pack of organic oats. Again, in these days of porridge shortages, this was like finding a bag of gold. Well, not quite. If I found 500 grams of gold instead of the oats. I’d probably have reacted in a slightly more enthusiastic manner.

Yes, I admit, I did say cous cous and quinoa. I bought them a few months ago to make healthy lunchtime salads but haven’t quite weaned myself off cheese and pickle sandwiches.

I also found two tins of chopped tomatoes and two more of chick peas plus a bag of pudding rice. This is all stuff you can no longer find on supermarket shelves. I never thought I’d be glad that I have a wife with squirrel DNA but her habit of hiding things seems to have paid off this time.

So, all is right with the world. We have bonus food for several meals and there is a pasta bake in the oven. I will take a picture when I take it out.

After that we will be having apple crumble. I’ll take a picture of that too.

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Apple crumble with cream – delicious

All in all, things could be a lot worse.

Lockdown Ratatouille

Yes, I’ve reverted to writing recipes again. Well, I needed some new photos and this was one way to get them.

It’s a handy recipe which provides two meals for two people. Or one meal for four. As a bonus, it’s all vegetables you can’t really poison anybody with it.

It’s particularly useful for my diet as I don’t really enjoy it so I don’t eat too much. Too many vegetables, too much virtue and not enough chips. I suppose you could serve it with chips but it doesn’t seem natural.

Warning – this isn’t quite the classic ratatouille recipe and if you are a serious cook it probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you aren’t too fussy and have better things to do than cook, it might just suit you.

All anecdotes and suggestions for improvement gratefully received.

Take some onions and start to soften them in a pan with a good splash of oil. I use ready chopped onions because too much preparation makes my back hurt and my fingers start to ache. Use about half a packet. The other half can be used for vegetable curry. I usually cook them on the same night and store the other in the fridge.

The Recipe:

Chop a couple of courgettes. Throw them in the pan. Cut up some peppers. I only had one red pepper and it was going a bit soft at one end so this recipe is for three quarters of a red pepper. I like the the colour of red or orange or yellow peppers. I rarely use green because I’m not keen on indigestion. That’s zucchini and bell pepper if you are American. I believe it’s zucchini and capsicum if you are in Australia and courgette and capsicum if you are in New Zealand.

It’s a good thing we all speak English or this could be quite confusing.

And now we have an aubergine. Chop it and chuck it in. It’s an egg plant in America, Australia, New Zealand and most of Canada. It’s an aubergine in Quebec and the UK.

Perhaps people could confirm that this is correct, it will give us something to talk about while we are in lockdown.

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It’s approximately ratatouille

I used one tin of tomatoes, some puree and some water because I’m trying to conserve tinned tomatoes – they are in short supply round here. Add dried herbs. I just use mixed herbs. Sometimes I use Italian Mixed Herbs. I suppose I ought to be using the Provencal mixed herbs, but you don’t always see them around. To be honest, they are all exotic and foreign to me, and my palate is not sophisticated.

I should use garlic but I’m out of the bottled stuff at the moment and couldn’t be bothered to slice any of the fresh stuff.

After that you simmer it a bit. If you are lucky it comes out rich and gloopy. If you aren’t lucky you just have to say “it’s supposed to be crunchy” or “in some parts of France it’s traditional to serve it as a soup” or “If you’re so clever, you can do the cooking.”

Divide it into two lots, reserving the cooking liquid, if any, for the second lot.

Serve the first with sausages, veggie burgers or baked potatoes. Or pretty much anything you fancy – those are just my three main choices. As you will see, I served it with garlic bread and broccoli last night – we had some left-over garlic bread slices and the broccoli was looking a bit the worse for wear at the back of the fridge so it all went on the plate.

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That broccoli looks really bad when photographed…

The second lot should be mixed with cooked pasta. If possible have this portion a bit more liquid than the first lot so it coats the pasta. When you are ready to eat, sprinkle cheese on top and reheat it in the oven. Now it’s pasta bake and you can’t be accused of serving the same thing twice in two days.

Preparation time – about 20 minutes for the ratatouille, about 15 for the pasta bake (mostly boiling pasta). Cooking time – about twenty minutes I suppose, I never really check.

Ingredients – onions, courgettes aubergines, peppers, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, mixed herbs, garlic, possibly water. You can get by without aubergines and peppers if necessary and you can put mushrooms in, though I’m not sure you are meant to.

And that, dear reader, is another part of the mystery. It’s not my money or my cheerful disposition, and as you can see from the recipe, it’s not my cooking. What does Julia see in me?

 

 

 

Parcels,Pate and Pakora

Disclaimer – there is not much pakora in this post – but I’m a slave to alliteration so I lied. Sorry about that. I did have pakora in my sandwiches last week so I do at least have a slight excuse to mention them. They were sweet potato pakora and, to my mind, much nicer in sandwiches than the falafel we also tried.

Yesterday I breakfasted on porridge, took Julia to work, cursed several cyclists for their ridiculous strobe lights and arrived at the shop far too early.

I had to use a lot of old self-adhesive stamps where the glue has dried out. This means they have to be fixed using a stick of glue. In turn this means that several of them have to be detached from my finger tips. They were a really bad idea as the glue either dries out or forms an unbreakable bond with the backing paper. I’m sure they are good when they are new, but we, as you know, use a lot of old stamps.

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They are First CLass Stamps, but no longer self-adhesive.

My first parcel of the day was a selection of gum cards bound for America. Imagine my surprise when  my fourth parcel turned out to be a group of gum cards. To America. It was the same man, who quite clearly hadn’t thought things through.

Fortunately I have strong nerves and a steady hand so I was able to open the parcel with my trusty scalpel and add the second lot of cards. Two lots of cards. one lot of postage and a substantial refund. Hopefully he will be happy with that.

After parcels (and no more mishaps) I proceeded to do more banknotes. This an ongoing project. I have photos loaded up until Myanmar and will be moving on to Nepal tomorrow. I’m looking forward to Zimbabwe…

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Nepal – bank notes and an unusual head-dress

In the evening I read and replied to other bloggers, wrote a blog post, then wrote a second blog post, though it was actually too late in the end.

Between the two I cooked ratatouille and sausages, made a batch of smoked mackerel pate and did the sandwiches.

The pate recipe is simple and I’m not sure why I don’t do it more often. Mackerel, cream cheese. yoghurt, spring onion, lemon juice, lemon zest, horseradish sauce and dijon mustard. Quantities range from two bits of mackerel and quite a lot of cream cheese down to juice and zest of half a lemon and a teaspoon of each of the seasonings. Next time I may leave out the yoghurt and add more horseradish. Or I may just buy the pate and avoid the epic amount of washing up it generates.

It has worked out rather well and Julia can have the third bit of fish. She likes fish. I eat it because it’s good for me. I used the small blender and two bits of fish was enough to fill it. I haven’t used it for a while and couldn’t work out how to get the bowl off . Julia eventually sorted it for me.

You can also make fish pate with smoked haddock, though I seem to remember you can do that with a fork. There’s a look of the shoe sole about a smoked mackerel fillet if you aren’t careful. So far it has provided a decent depth of filling for four medium cobs and will probably do at least two more.

It’s really quite amazing. Some smoked fish and stuff in a blender and I’m already daydreaming about a Michelin star.

Tonight we will finish the ratatouille, add some “French-style lentils” from a packet, bake a potato and have some veggie burgers. This week I have bought the burgers – next week I will be making them. I am also going to start cooking my own lentils. I have become very lazy.I always used to make my own but have drifted off course somewhere.

I’d better try making my own pakora too…

Banknotes of Laos

Banknotes of Laos

Hasselback Potatoes – the Final Photograph

This, at last, is the final photograph. The potatoes don’t look too bad, though I’ve never really mastered the art of making food look good in photos. The stir fried sprouts and broccoli look, to be honest, burnt, but they were actually very tasty. The other, orange, bits were roast carrots and sweet potatoes. The pink bits are gammon.

That’s all for now. I’m just in and need a cup of tea and a warm fireside.

 

Some Cookery Confessions

So, you ask, how was the vegetable soup last night? You probably aren’t asking that, but I’m going to tell you anyway and it seems better if I pretend someone is interested.

Well, the vegetable soup, consisting of some festering ready-chopped carrot and swede, some greying carrots, a wrinkly parsnip, quite a lot of onion and some green bits from leeks, was excellent in parts. It was nutritious, tasty, sustaining, wholesome and almost additive free.

The additives came from a garlic and thyme flavour pot I threw in.

The parts that weren’t good came from the seasoning. It was, to say the least, a schoolboy error. It needs a bit of spice to give it a lift, I always feel, and I decided to test out the new jar of smoked paprika. I’ve only just started using it again, I never think of it as particularly hot and… you can already see where this is going can’t you?

A lesson I learned long ago is to test out each new jar of spice unless it’s one you’ve used before.

This one was quite a bit hotter than the previous one and despite attempts to cool it down with honey and extra dilution, it remained a little hotter than is usual for vegetable soup.

Despite this, the basic recipe was good and it used a lot of slightly manky veg.

Tonight we are having gammon, Hasselback potatoes and vegetables that are still to be decided. I’ve been meaning to do Hasselback potatoes for a while, and once I actually read the recipe I was amazed at how easy they are. They always look much more complicated when you see them served on TV.

This could be a case of “famous last words” because they are still in the oven.

Meanwhile, bubbling away on the hob we have a vegetable curry on the go for tomorrow. It’s onions, sweet potato, chickpeas, some chilli from a jar, garlic from a jar, curry powder and five ladles of spicy vegetable soup from yesterday, because it would be silly to waste it and if you have soup (or spicy vegetable sauce as it is now) you may as well put it in a curry.

You can probably tell from the nature of my ingredients that I’m not one of the world’s most industrious cooks, and that I have trouble with stock control and portion sizes, but I keep on trying. Cooking and writing are both similar in that you have to keep trying, and once in a while, possibly by accident, something good happens.

The photos tonight are chickpea and sweet potato curry and half-finished Hasselback potatoes. If I wait until it’s time to serve I’ll eat them before I remember to take the photos.

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Chickpea and Swee4t Potato Curry, and steam

An Easy Meal

Cut some veg into bits.

Tonight I used sweet potatoes, carrots, swedes, onions and sprouts.

Oil them and chuck them in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 180 C (250 F or Gas Mark 4)

Then add the chicken thighs.

Give it another 30-40 minutes.

Whip up some gravy (Julia insists on gravy) and serve, pretending it’s a proper roast dinner.

Make a mental note that next time I’ll put the sprouts in at the same time as the chicken.

The timings are approximate, as I was watching the Strictly Come Dancing results. That’s why it looks a bit burnt. I think burnt food is more tasty. Apart from sprouts. Burnt sprouts aren’t an improvement.

So there you go – roast dinner, negligible thought or work.

My sort of meal.

Third Post of the Day

Well, I wrote one post, then I wrote another. At that point I decided I needed a third post to link to the previous two. Really I ought to write a sequel to parts one and two of the burger story, but that can wait until tomorrow. My life is so crammed with trivia that it’s hard to fit it all in.

I notice that the clock is nearing midnight, and if I don’t post soon the title will be incorrect.

We were going to have fish pie and roasted ratatouille tonight but it was so cold I changed that to sausages and roasted root veg with cumin and paprika. We put the heating back on on Friday night, which is something we don’t normally do. I also don’t normally need to use successive “ons” in a sentence. It’s always good to do something new.

Whilst seasoning the veg I made two discoveries.

One, the new pot of smoked Spanish paprika is considerably hotter than the old one.

Two, in a kitchen, in the twilight, with aging eyes, cinnamon and cumin don’t look all that different when you are reading spice jar labels. I will put the light on next time.

For desert we had fig rolls and Battenberg cake. Must do better with planning my menus.

The lack of photos may show you how little progress I am making towards my targets in food photography.