Category Archives: Cookery

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 cicones 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.

My New Saturday

Before lockdown, my old Saturdays were spent in the shop. The morning was a bit hectic because I didn’t have to get Julia to work. This may seem counter-intuitive, but free time gave me the opportunity to make choices, which didn’t help. I was often only just in time, whereas I am normally an hour early when I take her to work during the week.

In lockdown I am free to watch Sharpe. It’s not, I admit, jane Austen, but it makes up in humour and action what it lacks in culture. It’s a reminder of simpler times when good always triumphed (in stories, at least) and we were still allowed to have violence and to look down on the French. Oh, how I miss those days.

Saturday afternoons in the shop were the social times, when people used to come in for a chat, as well as to buy things. I tend to have lunch after Sharp (avocado with prawns and Marie Rose dressing for me, mashed avocado on toast with poached eggs for Julia – the eggs were slightly overdone but at least they held together this week). Then I snooze as Jessica Fletcher rabbits on. I really should do something, but  a man needs to recharge his batteries.

Late afternoon, I rose from my recharging and messed about on the internet. It was mainly watching eBay. I lost one lot (being underbidder once more) and secured  a second lot for a very reasonable price.

Then I made fish pie in my quick and easy style. Soften some leeks (I had some green tops – you could use onions) and mushrooms. Add flour, add milk, make a sort of white sauce. Add the fish from the pack – salmon, smoked haddock and something white- and throw in sweetcorn and frozen peas. Let it cook gently.

Meanwhile, take the potatoes off the heat (yes, I forgot to mention boiling the potatoes, sorry about that). Mash with a little butter and some mustard. These are not American mashed potatoes so go easy on the butter.  And don’t add milk. You don’t need to.

Fish Pie with potato topping – the dark bits are the mustard seeds from the Dijon mustard in the mustard mash

Add some prawns (I had some from the pack we had for lunch), warm them through, pour the sauce into the dish, add the potato on top and stick it under the grill. I did put cheese on top, I confess, just to show off. With hindsight, it added nothing to the flavour and didn’t look as good as a nice pattern of lines browned under the grill.

You can add more seasoning and some herbs but tonight I just kept it simple.

I’m now marking time until I take Julia for her Covid Vaccination . It’s either half past midnight (which I think of as 00.30) or it’s half past mid-day (which I think of as 12.30). Unfortunately the booking site and the confirmation email use both times for the same thing. We will be going down just after midnight and I will report back.

I’m not good at food photography and I promise it was more appetising than it looks here.

 

 

Chorizo and Bean Stew

Variations on a Theme

When life gives you chorizo that’s perilously close to its use-by date, make sausage casserole.

That’s my new mantra.

I made three meals this afternoon, which will save me time in the long run. The first, mad after finding I had  ¾ of a chorizo at the back of the fridge, was to make a variation on last week’s sausage casserole.

This time I managed to find mild chilli powder to use instead of the Cajun  Seasoning. I also used black-eyed beans and chorizo. There was a red pepper in the fridge next to the chorizo so that went in too.

We also have vegetable hotpot and Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry in the fridge so all is looking good on the catering front. A lot of it is looking like plates of red stew, but you can’t have everything. If you cook by pouring cans of chopped tomatoes into things, you are going to end up with red food.

The curry is actually reddish with black bits in it, on account of me simmering too vigorously and ignoring the pot as I watched Father Brown this afternoon. A few burnt bits will add texture.

I think I’ve found a winning combination. Cheap, simple, and not bad to eat. It probably won’t pass inspection by the quality and health police, but it will do for me. I have a blog to write and time is too precious to waste on cooking.

The bread in the picture is Corn Bread from TESCO. I was going to use it for Welsh Rarebit for lunch on Sunday, but  the arrangements went adrift.

Chorizo and Bean Stew

Chorizo and Bean Stew

21-21-21-21 and Bacon and Potato Hotpot

Nine o’clock last night was, Julia tells me, the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st Century.  Unfortunately she didn’t tell me until later so I was unable to savour the moment. I will have to wait until 10pm on 22nd January 2122 for the next similar event. I suspect that despite advances in medical science I’m not going to be around for that.

I had another go at bacon casserole this week. The last attempt, the Panhaggerty, wasn’t quite right so I looked for a new recipe and gave it a try. I didn’t make a note of the recipe and can’t find it again. However, don’t despair – there are hundreds of them if you want one, or try this.

Cut potatoes into slices, I used about five potatoes of about medium size. Par boil. I did them for five minutes, I may give them 7 next time, though five worked.

You probably should cut onions into rings as it will look better. I had some ready chopped onion and three small leeks so I used them.

Bacon bits.

Black pepper, stock cube, grated cheese.

Fry the bacon  and then soften the onions/leeks.

Put in a layer of potato, the onions/leeks and another layer of potato, then bacon, then potato. I used freshly ground black pepper on each layer of potato (it’s easier to see how much you put on if you add it that way. The dishes I used are about an inch and  a half deep so that’s enough layers.

Make the stock and pour it in until it nearly covers the potatoes. Cover with foil, cook for an hour at 200 C/400 F for an hour. When I prodded the potato at the hour mark it was still a bit hard, so I may give it an extra couple of minutes boiling next time.

Uncover, put the cheese on top and put it in the oven. I gave it thirty minutes and turned the oven up. The recipe suggested 15 minutes for browning but I was watching a half hour programme on TV. At least it cooked the potato properly. It also formed a nice golden crust and reduced the gravy nicely.

It was a bit salty for our low salt tastes, probably due to the bacon.

Next time I’m going to make a vegetarian version with carrots and parsnips, and possibly without cheese.

I haven’t made hotpot for twenty years, and am not sure why. Looks like we will be having more of it from now on.

Potato and Bacon Casserole

 

 

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