Category Archives: Food

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.

Cup a Soup Chronicles IV – Ainsley Harriott Thai Chicken and Lemongrass

Thai Chicken and Lemongrass Cup a Soup

Cup a Soup Chronicles IV (17.03.21)

Ainsley Harriott Thai Chicken and Lemongrass Cup a Soup – TESCO £1 for three sachets

I went for something a little more upmarket today – Ainsley Harriott’s Thai Chicken and Lemongrass. It’s a little more expensive, at £1 for 3 sachets, but is it worth it? Often when you read reviews you find that the extra money isn’t worthwhile. With Batchelors at 20p a sachet and Ainsley’s at 33p, will the more expensive soup win the day? It’s hard to imagine that anyone is actually interested, but yes, it does.

It’s full of flavour, it tastes good and it has a good bright colour. This is a far better experience than Batchelors’ Oxtail, but to be honest, I’d struggle if I had to decide between Batchelors’ Oxtail and a colonoscopy. I’d probably select the soup, simply because I get to keep my trousers on, but it would take some thinking about. This looks like it’s soup, rather than an industrial adhesive. It even produces it’s own soft focus by steaming up the camera lens. No steam actually seems to escape from the other soups I have tested. I must check this in future.

Chicken & Lemongrass Soup

This is actually a soup that I wouldn’t object to eating by the bowlful, though now that I know how much salt these things contain I am less keen on eating soup that is bought in. I’m not sure how much salt there is in home made soup, but I’m sure it’s a lot less than the amount in bought soup. I will have to have a look at the ingredients labels on some cans.

Still too much salt!

 

Uplifting messages on soup packets.

There was a third message but I tore it open and used it before I realised they were all different. It’s nice to see the manufacturers trying, even if the slogans are excruciating.

Cup a Soup Chronicles I – Batchelor’s Chicken Noodle

Cup a Soup Chronicles I (12.02.21)

Batchelor’s Chicken Noodle – ASDA 75p for four sachets

There haven’t been many scones in my life over the last twelve months, but as I was sitting at work drinking Cup a Soup last week, I thought “I know what I can do”. So here I am, doing it.

Cup a Soup

I’ve been meaning to ty the Chicken Noodle for a few weeks but ASDA have been unable to supply it. I don’t know why, it’s not that good that people will be stocking up with it.

My first thought was that it looked like washing up water after a hard day cooking  – a little grey with a sheen of grease. My second thought was that it tasted a bit like washing up water too. As I got to the bottom I found that despite energetic stirring at the beginning,  a lot of it had settled back in the bottom of the mug, particularly the noodles. I wondered where they had got to – they had seemed a bit sparse. Be warned at this point, do not scoop out the noodles and eat them, when they are semi-dissolved and eaten in bulk they resemble wallpaper paste.

My second cup, taken later in the day, was a better experience. I stirred it several times whilst drinking it and the colour, flavour and noodle distribution were all greatly improved. The main problem, once that was solved, was that two of these soups provided me with 50% of my daily salt ration. That’s not good.

For 75p it’s not expensive and as long as you stir several times whilst drinking, the taste and noodle issue is solved.

look at all that salt!

Doing its dishwater impression

 

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

Sunday Salad

I’m showing off now – three posts, and the final one is about salad. Can’t generally stand the stuff, which is for girls, rabbits and Liberals, but now and again I do feel like a salad, particularly as I have been filling up on stodge this week, so it was time for a salad to give my stomach a break.

It wasn’t too bad.I started with rocket, then added slices of pear, a scatter of red peppers, home-grown red and yellow tomatoes, shop-bought coleslaw (I was feeling lazy), a fig, crumbled Stilton and some sweet potato pakora (also bought).

I always feel guilty about shop-bought coleslaw, but do I really want to be elbow deep in sliced cabbage and grated carrot or do I want to pass  over 85 pence?

I meant to add sliced mushrooms and balsamic vinegar but I forgot.

Looking at the picture, it seems that you can see a lot of plate through the salad, but I assure you, it was filling.

I had to face an unpalatable fact this afternoon, and I don’t mean the salad. I’m just not very good at writing fact-filled posts. I spent several hours researching a post and trying to write it and so far, have come up with six hundred works of seriously soporific pap. It’s fortunate I’m not in full alliteration mode…

Sometimes I get it right, but more often than not I end up droning on with increasing pomposity as I cull facts from Wikipedia.

I’m much better at lightweight pieces about salad, or talking about my plums.

Or making puerile plum puns with potentially perplexing polysemy.

(Apologies if polysemy isn’t quite the right word, but I needed something beginning with p, knew that poly was a promising start and Googled the rest. If I’m wrong I will have to endure the vilification of lexicographers, but I can’t see that being much of a problem).

 

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

 

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.

An Avocado Day

The day started badly when I woke at 6.20 am and found that my hopes regarding my knee (which had become very painful during the course of the evening) had come to nothing. Despite having rested, it was still painful. Fortunately I had taken a walking stick upstairs and was able to make it to the bathroom without too much cursing.

I took ibuprofen, even though they interfere with the warfarin and went back to bed. I couldn’t find any paracetamol and the ibuprofen gel was, inconveniently, downstairs.

At 8.10 I woke again to find that the ibuprofen had lived up to my expectations and done bugger all to alleviate the pain.

That’s what I find about painkillers these days. The ones you can buy at the supermarket don’t do much to help with the sort of pain I get as old age creeps on, and the ones that work, like laudanum, are out of favour. You can’t read a depiction of Victorian life without tripping over gallons of the stuff but, despite the insistence of the Conservative party on returning to Victorian values, you just can’t get hold of it.

By the time I got downstairs the post had been, as had the bin men, and there was a letter waiting for me from the anti-coagulant service. I have, once again, managed to hit target with my recent blood test and have been rewarded with an appointment in August.

This amazes me, as I have a bad habit of often taking the pills either too late or not at all. My phone sounds an alarm at 8pm and I tend to switch it off with the words “I will have to take my pills in a while.” There are always better things to do at 8pm.

A quick shout out for the posties and bin men here – they are doing a great job keeping civilisation going, but they aren’t complaining and they aren’t getting the thanks they deserve.

We had a TESCO delivery last night at 9pm (because it’s cheaper at that time) and it was much more accurate than the ASDA delivery last week. As a result we were able to breakfast on bacon sandwiches made using croissants and our new supply of brown sauce. Life does not get much better…

I also picked up my new warfarin prescription from the pharmacy and took advantage of that to buy a box of co-codamol. It’s not laudanum, but as I write, ten hours after taking two tablets, I have nothing more than a dull ache in the knee. You are only supposed to take it for a maximum three days but I’ve never needed to take more than a couple of doses before it’s sorted me out. Strangely, despite the three day stipulation, it comes in a box containing enough for four days.

I then made lunch, consisting of sourdough rye bread and avocado – I seem to have become much more middle-class during lockdown – with finely chopped wild garlic leaves which Julia had foraged whilst out walking in the local park.

After that the day became less interesting.

Avocado and Wild Garlic

Avocado and Wild Garlic

Yes, it’s the same picture, but I like to add two photos where I can. Note the square plate, which I always consider a sign of gastronomic sophistication. I bought several in my abortive bid to become a food blogger.

It’s really avocado, wild garlic, coriander leaves (and stalks) and black pepper. The rye sourdough was a TESCO substitution for ordinary sourdough, which, after last week’s bread substitution from ASDA suggests that TESCO is a better supermarket for home deliveries. At least they understand bread.