Category Archives: Cookery

Another Day, Another Plan.

It’s about seven hours since the last post, but I’ve managed to sleep and get Julia to work in that time.

I’m hoping that today will be better in terms of productivity, decluttering and writing.

I’ve just about shaken off the bad cold I had last week and there has been no repeat of the nose bleed. I have a weak nostril that often bleeds when I have colds (maybe two or three times a year – but I consider that “often” for an adult).  It was a notable nosebleed, and though I don’t have a proper marking scale I’d rate it as high volume, short duration. My normal nosebleed is low volume but longer duration. Maybe the anti-coagulants are altering the way my nose bleeds.

Practical advice. Forget pinching the top of the nose or putting your head back or all that stuff. Roll yourself a decent cylinder from tissue and shove that up. You can leave gaps, and you don’t need to ram it home, as it’s a nostril, not a cannon. Just make it big enough to stay in without help. I find it usually stops the bleeding quite quickly.

When I finish this post I’m going to sit and write my plan for today. Top of the list will be “make chicken stew” and second will be “make soup”.  Actually, it may be the other way round, as I need the soup for lunch. Butternut squash and roasted Winter Vegetable Soup is the plan. Ready cut butternut squash was on offer yesterday and the veg are left over from yesterday’s tea.

After that I will “make sweet potato, lentil and chickpea curry” and put it in the fridge for tomorrow, “tidy living room” and “hoover”.

There will be other things too, but I’m just trying to convey an impression of the day, and I don’t want anyone asking me if I’ve done it all. Short lists are better for that sort of thing.

Plans, like blogging, are a good way of delaying work, but they have their uses too. They are a bit like meetings -everyone does them but only some of them are useful. About half of all lists and ninety percent of meetings would have been better if they had never existed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to start that stew.

A Tale of Two Soups

I tried Mushroom and Tarragon soup last week. I really wanted to do Mushroom and Thyme because we’d enjoyed it while we were out a few months ago. However, our thyme has given up the ghost and the supermarket had none. It did, however, have tarragon, As I’d seen a recipe fot Mushroom and Tarragon Soup recently I thought I’d have a crack at that. The rest of the tarragon was earmaked for a chicken casserole next day.

Now, that was good as far as it went. There was a lack of ingredients when I got back to the house butit’s not the first time that ingenuity has had to replace missing ingrdients. Next time I try it I’m going to use this recipe, give or take a few bits. It looks quite simple. It’ll be onions rather than banana shallots and, unless I win the lottery, there won’t be any porcini powder or pink Himalayan salt.

The first attempt did not go well. Apart from the fact that ingenuity doesn’t taste as good as cream, there was the water problem. I usually fill the pan up with veg then pour in a kettle of water. I did this and then stopped to think. With hindsight, it might have been better to think first. It was a bit watery but not entirely bad. Nobody asked for a second helping.

I like to think I retrieved the situation with today’s soup. It’s the old stand-by – packets of ready-chopped squash and sweet potato, garlic, onion, chilli, stock cubes and water. This time I added curry powder for a more spicy flavour. It’s less orange than previous versions due to the curry powder. It’s a sort of khaki, but still reasonably attractive.

My mother, when she first bought a liquidiser, used to produce a greenish soup that always looked like it had been festering since the days of the dinosaurs. Once she moved on to root vegetables the soup seemed so much better.

The first bite, as they say, is taken with the eyes.

 

The Bread Group – A Retrospective

The Bread Group was originally set up in 2012 when we did a school holiday project with parents and children. One of the parents asked about us doing similar things in the future and Julia decided to set a group up so local people could get together and learn to bake together.

Gail arrived shortly after and under her leadership the group went from strength to strength, proving to be popular both for social, baking and health reasons. The group was the driving force behind our successful run of Open Farm Sunday events, and also helped make our one and only Winterfest a great success. That proved to be a problem.

The first winter event, organised by the farmer’s sister and with me as a disappointing  Santa, attracted 11 children and made a loss. The next one, with Julia on crafts and Gail on catering, and with a less grumpy Santa, attracted hundreds of people and made about £600. Things looked set for an annual event, with craft fair and profit, but by the time we were ready to plan for the next one the writing was already on the wall.

Cynics might say many things at this point, but this is meant to be a celebration of bread and friendship, and that’s how I’m going to leave it, with a selection of pictures and memories of bread, Christmas curries and the group’s visit to India.

Thanks are due to Gail and all members of the group for cheering the place up on a regular basis and for all their hard work in helping run the centre events over the years.

Sadly, although the kitchen extension is now complete, they have not been invited back and it looks like the group has now passed into history.

The days of wine and roses, they are not long…

 

 

Lazy Soup

I never did get to make that soup yesterday. I was diverted by the need to stack the bokashi bucket and clean forgot. Next thing I knew, I had a sandwich in one hand and… a sandwich in the other. It was organic brown bread so I feel reasonably virtuous. Please notice that I’ve avoided the “balanced diet” joke. Well, side-stepped it rather than actually avoided it I suppose.

I did get round to it today though, and it worked out well. It’s a nicely seasoned brownish soup, partly due to the seasoning, which changes the colour from orange.

It’s easy and almost free of effort, hence the title.

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

Three bags of ready chopped Sweet Potato/Butternut Squash from TESCO. They are three for the price of two at the moment.

Half a pack of ready-chopped onions.

Three cloves of garlic. Chopped.

A piece of ginger about twice the size of the top of my thumb. Chopped.

Two organic vegetable stock cubes (they were on offer).

Two heaped teaspoons of cumin.

Water. How much water? Enough to cover and simmer. Maybe some to dilute.

Method

Soften the onions. I browned them by accident but it didn’t do any harm. Let#s face it, this isn’t Masterchef.

Throw in the rest of the stuff and add water.

Simmer for around 20 minutes.

Use stick blender to reduce to soup. Dilute to taste.

 

I meant to add a red chilli because I wanted to add some heat and some red flecks to the soup. Unfortunately I can’t find where Julia put the chillis when she stacked the shopping.

If you do it with chilli you can probably leave out the cumin, which will give you a much more orange soup, with more heat but less depth of flavour.

It’s so easy I should do it more often.

Normally I would chop my own veg, but a combination of knee and back pain means I can’t stand and cook for too long, At the moment quick is good, even if it does cost more.

Fish Pie

I need to brush up on my food presentation technique and buy plain plates, but I think the photograph gives the general idea.  It’s fish pie with peas, sweetcorn, onions, mushrooms and dill in the sauce. It’s topped with sweet potato and served with carrots, asparagus and a cabbage and broccoli mix. They aren’t all full portions but I imagine there are six portions lurking in there.

Yes, I feel guilty about the out of season South American asparagus but nobody is perfect.

At one time I would have sat back with a snug expression on my face, having done a day’s veg in one meal. Since recent changes to government advice it’s now only 60% of my day’s intake. Even with thick cut marmalade for breakfast, a pickled onion with my lunch and two bits of fruit I’m falling short of the new target.

Looks like I’m going to have to rethink breakfast and eat vegetable soup for lunch. Or salad. For the rest of my life.

That’s the paradox. The healthier my diet (which is something achieved by eating food I don’t enjoy) the longer I will live. And the longer I live, the more salad I’m going to have to eat.

 

 

Notes on Food

We had the final two bean burgers tonight, served up with salad, mayonnaise, ketchup and a soft white roll. Julia’s was a little dry, despite the mayo. Mine was nice and moist. The difference between the two was that she had the one that I hadn’t dropped in the  washing up bowl. That’s what happens when you work in a cramped space and don’t tidy up as you go.

Luckily I was able to grab it quickly and dry it with kitchen paper. It was good, but even if it did produce a nice moist burger it’s not a technique I’ll be recommending.

No pictures – we ate it before I remembered.

We will be having soup for lunch tomorrow, and at least one other day. I made a big pan of it yesterday. It’s sweet potato, butternut squash, chilli and ginger. Initial tests indicate it’s tasty and I’m likely to have clear sinuses by the end of the week. Chilli and ginger are both good for you so I’m starting to add more to all my recipes.

After drawing a blank last night I found a fully-stocked offal section at the supermarket today and now have the sheep hearts I need for hearts and plum sauce. I also have plums, though I’m feeling guilty about buying out of season Chilean plums.

Strange that I could buy plums but couldn’t buy Bramley apples. Even stranger, when looking at the cheese TESCO stocks four sorts of goat’s milk cheese but only two sorts of Stilton. Even if you accept goat’s milk cheese as proper cheese there’s no excuse for only stocking two sorts of Stilton when we’re in the geographically protected area.

 

 

 

 

Notes from a Small Kitchen

First up, meatballs. I had intended to make them last night, but Julia was hungry, time was short, the night was cold and the chip shop was soooo tempting.

I had mushy peas with mine and followed up with an apple and a pear. I’d had a banana with my breakfast cereal and salad with lunch so that scraped my five a day. This is important as five a day, which was once sufficient, has now become ten. I didn’t know there were ten sorts of fruit and veg, and until last week certainly had no intention of ever eating 10 sorts in one day.

Getting 10 sorts of fruit and veg into me takes a technique that is closer to loading a cannon than it is to cookery. However, it’s something I will have to work on.

I have a simple meatball recipe. Meat, breadcrumbs, milk, egg and stuff. In this case  the meat was minced pork and the “stuff” was a chopped spring onion and parsley. The milk to dampen the breadcrumbs and the egg all contribute to making a nice, tender meatball. You can do without them, but the end product is more suitable for playing golf than eating.

The bread crumbs may look a bit strange but don’t worry, the bits are just chopped up grains because I used the crusts of a seeded loaf to make the crumbs.

You can season it I suppose but the pork ones always seem to be OK with just herbs. I do season the beef ones a bit, normally using Worcestershire sauce or black pepper. You can also use dried herbs and grated parmesan.

Mix it all together with your hands and roll into balls the size of a walnut (a walnut in its shell, to be precise). Either poach it in a tomato sauce (about 40 minutes) or oven bake for 20 minutes at 180 C, 350 F or Gas Mark 4.

I based the bean burger recipe on one by Mark Bittman that was passed on to me by Laurie Graves.

My recipe was a tin of chickpeas, half an onion, parsley, a good shake of chilli powder, a teaspoon of cumin, an egg, some brown linseed (which was just hanging about needing to be used)  and enough oats to make the mixture dry enough to work. I made six burgers but we will only eat four for tea.

We ate them with roasted vegetables and stir-fried black kale, as pictured in the featured image. They still need a little work but are already much better than the previous recipe I was using and as good as any I’ve eaten recently when eating out.