Category Archives: Food

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.

 

Scone Chronicles – 34

This time it’s a hot pork sandwich.

We didn’t want much for lunch, having had a scone for elevenses, so before setting off home after our day in Derbyshire (the one last week, not this week) we did some thinking.

There were several places to purchase chips, but that seemed a bit much. There were other choices nearby, but I was  feeling lazy. So, something light, and something where we didn’t have to move far.

We happened to be standing just yards from the Bakewell Pudding Parlour. I’ve had the hot pork sandwich before. We’ve also had the macaroons and other things from there, which always helps – it’s good to buy from places you trust.

And that is what happened.

We had the hot pork sandwich with stuffing and apple sauce and we ate it outside, where they provide chairs and tables. We weren’t only ones to sit out, so it must be a sign that spring is coming. It also gave me chance to watch dog owners talking to each other and to take a photograph of yet another padlock.

It’s a good-sized sandwich, and with hindsight was probably a bit bigger than I really needed. There was plenty of pork and reasonable amount of stuffing. The apple was a bit runny.

All in all, not quite as good as it could have been, and probably not one I’d repeat. However, I will still go there for other food, as I do like it, and I like eating whilst watching people walk past.

Before Derrick jumps in to tell you that you can’t beat the pork cobs in Newark market place, I am going to provide you with that information, as it is true.. Their pork is more succulent, and everything else is just a bit better. And they give you crackling.

With my teeth that’s a bit like Russian Roulette, but don’t you love a nice bit of pork crackling? Or is that just me?

So if you ever find yourself in Newark – Nottinghamshire, not New Jersey – give it a try.

Scone Chronicles – 32 – It’s KFC

Sorry. The next one will definitely have scones in it. I ate them this morning, especially for my readers. However, getting back to the seaside trip, what did we do when we found there were no fish and chips?

I think I blew the mystery by telling you we went to KFC in Skegness a few posts ago.

I’ve eaten Kentucky Fried Chicken and written about it before, but I think this is the first Scone Chronicle devoted to the subject. If you think I’m going soft on them it might be because I really liked it. Or it might be that I’m hoping this post leads on to an offer from KFC to become a mystery customer and eat lots of free fried chicken. I live in hope.

We selected KFC because it’s familiar, it has toilets and it has parking. I’m not keen on the new ordering system with the machines. So far I’ve struggled with the machines at KFC and Burger King – only McDonald’s seems to have done it right. This is strange when you think it should be so simple.

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Wicked Zinger Meal – why can’t they just call it a chicken sandwich meal?

Same with batter. Coat the chicken, fry it, job done. The result should be crispy and tasty. I throw that in as a bit of dramatic foreshadowing.

I ordered the Wicked Zinger Burger, or tried to. The burger was what I expected, as were the chips and beans, but I normally have two hot wings with the meal – this one came with a chicken leg. To add insult to injury the coating on the leg was a flaccid sort of soft batter that draped the leg instead of forming a crispy crust. I don’t know what had gone wrong, but Julia reported the same problem with her chicken.

The chips were good, still with some skin attached, so they must have been good for me. If you look at the picture you will see a champion chip. Beans are full of fibre, so ditto for that.

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A very long chip

The burger was crispy and, as always, reliable. However, it’s a bit of chicken in a crispy coating with lettuce and mayonnaise, so it should be difficult to do it badly.

So, to sum up – not exciting but generally good. The soft batter was a let-down but isn’t generally a problem. The rest of it was fine, including efficient service, good standards of cleanliness and the all-important car park/toilet combo.

When we went in there were several groups of young people eating, but by the time we left they had been replaced by groups of people who looked like us – wrinkly, grey and looking relieved to have found somewhere decent to eat.

I enjoyed it, and would be happy to receive free food or payment in cash for reviews if anyone from KFC is reading this. You never know, it might work.

But they do need to fix that floppy batter.

The Scone Chronicles – 31

First, let me apologise for the lack of scones, or even baked goods. once again. It was always my intention to concentrate on scones. I like scones. But somehow they have taken a back seat. In Spring I promise to return to scones.

Second, please accept my apologies for the complex timeline. This report goes back to the time, a couple of weeks ago, when I couldn’t get onto WordPress.It should really be number 29 but two others slid into place – the dry Lemon Drizzle Cake and the Biscuits with Sparrows. Chronologically this post comes just after the coffee at Springfields.

And having explained all that, I have just noticed there are two Scone Chronicles XXVII. I’m not going to go back and correct the errors this causes, and I’m not going to get upset. A mild tutting sound is all that you will hear, as I am a reformed character.

Sadly I won’t be able to take you through it in detail, but I thought a few points were worth making.

While we were at Springfields we decided to eat before we left and then have soup in the evening. We like Frankie and Benny’s though we do tend to question the value for money. This is based on cost, portion size and the fact we can still remember when you could get a decent plateful for under a pound. Yes, the curse of the old age grumblers has caught up with us.

The thing about Springfields is that the staff are always top class, and it’s a pleasure to be served by them. (If anyone from Frankie and Benny’s reads this, I am available to write reviews and other stuff in return for free food and cash – just thought it might be worth mentioning).

We had the standard burger, because it’s a decent meal and reasonably cheap. They were doing a few Vegan things, but I can’t really remember the menu, apart from the Beetroot Burgers (known as the Smoky Beet Burger). My lifelong loathing of beetroot will ensure that the thought stays with me for a long time.

There was a time, several years ago, when F&B used to do a delicious sticky red sauce, a bit like sweet chilli. Then they dropped it for a cheap imitation, then went to something pink and toe-curling. Look at the two pictures. One is of the burger and fries when we had it about a year ago. The other is now. Can you see a difference?

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Last year’s burger and chips and sauce

Disregard the chips. They came in the same size container but I turned them out before I took the photo.

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Burger and Chips. Tasted nice but didn’t exactly fill the plate.

That’s right, there is no sauce at all. And come to think of it, there are several other differences. This is known as shrinkflation. They rely on customers with bad memories, but I took photos which, by accident, show it in action. But lots of people do it, so let’s not blame F&B.

On the other hand, they are still responsible for depriving me of that delicious red sauce…