Category Archives: Cookery

Simple Cookery from a Simple Man

My soup recipe just got even lazier because TESCO are now doing vegetable packs specifically for soup, with everything cut small and mixed with onions and chilli. Add water, a stock cube and a hand blender and you have soup. I put garlic in this one too. And a few extra onions.

At this time of year our kitchen is so cold you can leave it in a pan on top of the cooker with no need to use the fridge. We’ve had it for tea once and I’ve had it for lunch three times. The rest will go in the vegetable curry tomorrow.

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Sweet potato, butternut squash, onion, garlic and chilli soup

We also had the lazy pie this week.

Chop leeks, celery, chicken, mushrooms and tarragon.

Soften the veg and brown the chicken, Stir in some flour and milk to make a sauce bit and bung it in a pie dish.  We had a gammon joint this week too, so I cubed some of it to make this a chicken and ham pie. This is optional.

Then unroll a sheet of ready-made puff pastry, cut off a bit about the size of the pie dish.

Argue about who had the pastry brush last.

Pour a little milk on top of the pie and rub it round lightly with your finger tips.

Add “pastry brush” to the shopping list.

Cook until it”s brown on top. This takes about 40 minutes if you put it in the oven cold but I really don’t see the point in heating up an empty oven first.

Serve with whatever veg you have. We had brussels and red cabbage (which I make in quantity and eat all week).  With hindsight I could have selected a less environmentally damaging combination. Think methane.

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Chicken Pie and vegetables – sorry about the smudge on the lens

I know ready-made pastry and “parachute pies” (ones with just a top and no bottom) are all frowned on on serious pie circles, but ask me if I’m bothered. It’s crispy, it’s flaky and it tastes good. You don’t need all that stuff underneath.

This cooking stuff really is quite simple. I can’t really see how so many people seem to be able to make a career out of it with TV and cookery books and  such. As for Delia Smith being made a Companion of Honour “for services to cookery”, well I am, for once, speechless…

Thinking of Food and Health

We switched the heating on low a couple of nights ago and had the gas fire on last night because it’s getting a bit chilly. The fire was very dusty and didn’t do my throat a lot of good. At around six o’clock this morning I woke up wheezing like a pair of Victorian bellows with a painful cough and a dry throat.

It mainly passed within an hour, and I’m feeling pretty good now, though still a little tender in the throat.

This year is really proving to be a bit of a trial from the health point of view.

The good news is that in general I’m feeling much healthier than I have for some time. I attribute this to large quantities of turmeric and the new low carb diet (which mainly means no chips and no bread). The advantage with not eating bread is that you don’t eat any burgers or sugary spreads either. In truth the feeling of well-being may be coincidence, but by claiming credit for it I’m able to feel both healthy and virtuous.

I’m now looking at articles about superfoods and foods for winter. I’ve been a bit lax about this sort of thing over the last year so it’s time to tighten up.

Overnight oats with fruit for breakfast tomorrow, vegetable soup for lunch and Cottage Pie for tea (incorporating onions, peas and carrots) with sweet potato topping, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. I can probably work lentils and tinned tomatoes in too, so that should do wonders for my vegetable intake.

 

Raindrops on Red Plants…

My Cooking from A to Zzzz project came off the rails tonight. I set the chicken casserole going and stuck a gammon joint in to cook. I didn’t fall asleep tonight but I did immerse myself in writing and forgot about things.

The chicken was OK and I thought the gammon needed a bit more time. The “bit” was slightly wooly as I’d forgotten what time I put it in. As you have probably guessed, I forgot about it until Julia sniffed the air and said: “Is the cooker still on?”

“Ooops!” I said. Or something approximately similar.

There is good news and bad news.

The plastic-wrapped Danish gammons you buy cheaply from supermarkets don’t spoil if you cook them for an hour and a half longer than you should do.

That is the good news.

If you are fussy about what you eat this is also bad news as no quality meat would put up with that sort of treatment.

This morning, little realising what was in store for me, I treated Julia to breakfast at Harvester.

Yesterday I emptied a tin money box yesterday in my search for old-style £1 coins. They are going out of circulation in a few weeks and I would like to get them used before then. After cutting off the bottom with a can opener I was surprised to find only two £1 coins. Fortunately there were fifty £2 coins.  It’s a reminder of better days, when I used to be able to save £2 coins and not notice the difference.

It seemed only fair to treat Julia with my newly-discovered wealth, and after a leisurely late breakfast we had no need of lunch, so it turned out to be quite economical. Iturned down the offer of hash browns as I’m cutting down on carbs so they offered me chips instead. I turned them down too. I’d never thought I’d refuse chips…

I took pictures of some interesting red plants in the pub garden (tentatively identified as Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica ‘Blush Pink’ after looking on the Thompson and Morgan website) and then snapped a picture of a Magpie when we got home. There were a couple of them playing the street like kids.

 

 

After breakfast and before overcooking the gammon we photographed the grey pub. Mentioning this allows me to set it in the timeline and link to it in a cynical attempt to generate more traffic.

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.