Category Archives: Food

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.

A Meal in a Box

We dined on one of the meals from the birthday present box last night. It contained potatoes, shredded greens, garlic, pork steaks, squares of strong Cheddar and a pot of onion marmalade made by Tracklements, the top notch pickle company. All the ingredients were good and the recipe sheet had a colour picture and clear instructions.

To be honest, I could have sourced the ingredients and made pork steaks with cheese and onion topping with potato wedges and garlic greens without the instructions. However, after weeks of lockdown it’s comforting to be given a meal that hasn’t taken a lot of thought. More to the point, it’s nice to have something different too. We have been getting very dull with our menu. It’s also nice to have something a bit more tasty than usual – I wouldn’t have added the onion marmalade and cheese if I’d been left to my own devices.

Tomorrow we will be having the meatballs with roast broccoli and cheesy mash. The same comments apply. I’d have used ready-made meatballs if left to my own devices, and I’d just have used beef with bread crumbs made from leftover crusts. The kit includes beef and pork mince (in two different packs) and a pack of panko breadcrumbs. It’s a much more elegant way to live.

If I was younger, and had a proper job, I would seriously consider buying a box every week. The quality of ingredients is good, the presentation is good and the result was good. However, I’m one of those old dogs that can’t learn new tricks. Apart from the question of buying a food kit that includes bits I don’t want (like all the cheese) there is the question of ordering things over a week in advance and having to be around to accept a delivery. They had some good ice packs in the box but minced meat and summer heat can be tricky.

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It’s meant to be meatballs – I really must work on my presentation.

Tonight we had the meatballs. It’s the first time I’ve used panko breadcrumbs and they were (a) dry and (b) pointless. I can’t see that they were any better than ordinary breadcrumbs for making meatballs. I have no doubt they are better for some things, but I’m not sure you need them in meatballs.

I just looked them up, and added the link, and see that they absorb less fat when being fried. If that’s a concern, I would have thought the easiest way to cut the fat would be to stop adding cheese to everything.

Tonight’s meal – meatballs with cheese mash and roasted broccoli was very nice but, to be honest, making meatballs does involve a bit more standing than I would have liked. The meal was, I think, tastier than last night’s meal, but the instruction sheet was less clear.

Having said that, they have both been excellent.

The only drawback is the aggressive marketing campaign of the company, which made me sign up for regular deliveries just to redeem the gift voucher, and which made it difficult to cancel. They have already invited me to give them another chance three times.

It has, however, persuaded me that I must start making my own meatballs again. They are so much better than the bought ones, though the bought ones are good because they keep well, which is important in lockdown.

A Woman Full of Surprises

Sheringham

Even after knowing each other for 40 years Julia still has the capacity to surprise me.

She knitted a teddy bear yesterday. This was a surprise, as she has not knitted for years. Crochet embroidery and felting, yes, but no knitting. OK, it’s not a great surprise , but I#m building up to the big one.

Today she went out for some fresh air and came back with fish and chips. This was a surprise as I didn’t know the chip shop had reopened. Nor did I realise we were going to have something nice for tea, when I’d been expecting another meal of vegetables. It’s not the freedom I’m missing during lockdown, but the variety of food we used to eat. You have to queue outside and order from the open door.

Hake and Chips in Cromer

It’s our first take-away since the disastrous KFC. That’s nearly six weeks ago. In normal times I would probably have used KFC and Just Eat several times, so I’m happy to report they have lost some business over the mess. ASDA will be losing some too. In these days, when customer service means nothing, and people never get back to you about complaints, this seems to be the best you can do to.

When you used to have to write in with complaints they used to take things more seriously. Now that they do it all by email it’s easier but also easier to write an anodyne and meaningless reply.

I think I may write another complaint and see if anything happens.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of chips from happier times.

Sutton-on-Sea

The Back of the Cupboard

It is five days since I last went shopping, and we are planning a new expedition. I’m not looking forwards to it – I don’t really want to queue around the outside of the shop as they allow us to enter one at a time for a tour of the empty shelves. We have tried ordering home delivery, but can’t find a delivery slot – they are all booked up for weeks to come.

I won’t carry on with this complaint as I’ve said it all before, but I am confused as to why the shelves are still empty despite the restrictions on buying.

I feel a bit guilty about buying more food while we still have plenty, but it’s a question of quality rather than quantity. We have food, in the sense of having things to eat, but in terms of having a proper balanced diet we are nearly out of a number of staples.

To manage our food more efficiently I have been checking the backs of the cupboards. I didn’t find Narnia but I did find some mango chutney to go with my previous discoveries. I even found a tin of rice pudding whilst I was shuffling packets and counting tins.

We have, I think, enough food for three weeks, if I really push it. Unfortunately, this is only one week of balanced meals, as we are running out of fresh vegetables. It won’t include bread, as we are about to run out. Nor, soon, will it include milk, eggs, or salad. Our vegetable stew will be served without dumplings due to a lack of flour.

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Happier Days…

Week Two will see us running out of fresh fruit and relying on tinned vegetables – beans, mushy peas and sweetcorn. Sadly, the fish fingers and tinned mushy peas will be served without potatoes, which are in short supply. The cheese will have gone by the end of the week. On a brighter note, we will have plenty of marmalade, though without toast to put it on this is a mixed blessing. If we have any surplus cheese biscuits I will try them with marmalade.

Week Three will see some real culinary horrors as the tinned haggis comes into play, teamed up with chick peas and lentils. I bought two tins of haggis when I was worried about Brexit but haven’t been able to face actually eating them.

Julia told me that there is a spoof email doing the rounds, and taking advantage of the fear of food shortages. It promises tins of pork, but people are advised not to open it as it’s just spam.

Sorry about that – when Julia told me I couldn’t stop laughing. We have a tin of spam on the shelf next to the haggis. We will have to see if I’m still laughing when we are reduced to eating it.

Haggis and root vegetables

Haggis and root vegetables

 

 

 

Scone Chronicles 37 – This One Has Scones!

Don’t get excited. I said it has scones. I didn’t say they were good scones. I’ll get that bit over with quickly, they weren’t good scones.

Julia went to order the Sausage Pie and, due to a mix up in communication, came back with scones. It’s too boring to explain fully, but after thirty years she hasn’t mastered the art of listening and I have developed a habit of nodding and going “Yes dear.”

She merged two conversations we had had in the car, one about scones and one about lunch. As she walked away from the table she said something I didn’t catch and I nodded and said “Yes”.

And that was how we ended up with Sausage Pie and Scones for lunch. You only needed to look at the scones to see that the odds were heavily stacked in favour of dyspepsia. To be fair, they were the best looking things in the sweet section. The lemon meringue pie positively radiated bright yellow malevolence and I have already forgotten the other choices – they were neither good enough, or bad enough, to remember.

The scones were large, slightly lopsided, dotted with burnt currants and dusted with sugar. When I was able to inspect them more closely I discovered they were crusty, dry and in possession of a lot of stiff, industrial cream.

Scones at Carsington Water

Scones at Carsington Water

I don’t mind large, lopsided and even the burnt currants. They are all faults I’m familiar with. On the other hand, dusting scones with icing sugar should be punished severely. It’s not necessary and it’s not adding to the taste or the experience. I don’t like crusty scones or dry scone and I think less is more in terms of cream. If I want blocked arteries I’ll ask for them, but all I really want is a garnish of cream, enough to add flavour and texture, not an inch thick dollop of chemically treated grease.

Am I being unfair? Probably, but a baker of bad scones deserves criticism. They weren’t necessarily bad just because the were home made – faulty and home made go together to a certain extent, and we all make mistakes. I have made many faulty scones in my time. It was the choices that annoyed me – the decision to sprinkle with sugar, to bake too fiercely and to use masses of badly maltreated cream.

I would have shown more faults but I couldn’t take all the photos I would have liked because I was being stared at by a woman on a neighbouring table. I’m still a bit self-concious about photographing my food, and didn’t like to carry on whilst being glared at from a distance of four feet. She was a touch on the small, round side, and it was like being singled out by an evilly-intentioned teddy bear .

Scone Chronicles 35 (Part 2)

So, the moment of truth…

Was our second visit to Tagg Lane Dairy as successful as the first?

I decided to try a different cake this time, and opted for the Sticky Toffee cake. I cannot lie to you, it was even better than last time. There was plenty of potential for it being too sweet and sickly, but it was not. It was just pleasantly sweet and toffee flavoured.

The cake, with swirls of toffee flavour, was excellent, with a lovely lightness of texture and tiny cubes of toffee embedded in a toffee icing. It was delicious, and, although it probably had a fatal dose of sugar for a diabetic, was just right for me.

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Sticky Toffee Cake

The coffee and walnut cake, which was Julia’s choice was as good as last time, but not as good as the Sticky Toffee cake. You know the bit in Henry V where he says. And gentlemen in England now a-bed, Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day?

Well, if Shakespeare had eaten the Sticky Toffee cake at Tagg Lane Dairy he would have written this speech about the cake rather than wasting it on Agincourt. It was that good. If I was marking out of ten, I’d give it eleven.

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Tagg Lane Dairy

The premises are new and , according to a wall plaque had been built with the help of funding from the EU. People may well want to think of this in the future, as I’m not sure the government will be funding many such projects in the coming years.

Unlike the cafe at Brierlow Bar, or the one at Home Farm (where we used to be based) it was not cluttered with a multiplicity of fashionable junk but was just neat and clean and a pleasure to use.

Finally, as I was taking a few wintry landscape shots near the gate, a female Sparrowhawk flew in to the yard flying so low she actually used the gate. She flew past me at about knee high, so close that I could almost have touched her. She then flew round the perimeter of the farmyard and flipped over the drystone wall to see if she could surprise anything on the other side.

We had Magic on the Marshes two weeks ago, now it’s magic on the Moors. I have been very lucky with what I’ve seen in the last few weeks. I just wish I could photograph it all to show you.

We also picked up some raw milk while we were there. I’m not sure whether it does me any good or not but I know that around half the time I have raw milk to drink my skin seems to improve. It might be a placebo effect, but if it feels better I’ll accept that, even if it’s because I’m deluded. It still feels better, whatever the reason.