Tag Archives: recipes

Lockdown Ratatouille

Yes, I’ve reverted to writing recipes again. Well, I needed some new photos and this was one way to get them.

It’s a handy recipe which provides two meals for two people. Or one meal for four. As a bonus, it’s all vegetables you can’t really poison anybody with it.

It’s particularly useful for my diet as I don’t really enjoy it so I don’t eat too much. Too many vegetables, too much virtue and not enough chips. I suppose you could serve it with chips but it doesn’t seem natural.

Warning – this isn’t quite the classic ratatouille recipe and if you are a serious cook it probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you aren’t too fussy and have better things to do than cook, it might just suit you.

All anecdotes and suggestions for improvement gratefully received.

Take some onions and start to soften them in a pan with a good splash of oil. I use ready chopped onions because too much preparation makes my back hurt and my fingers start to ache. Use about half a packet. The other half can be used for vegetable curry. I usually cook them on the same night and store the other in the fridge.

The Recipe:

Chop a couple of courgettes. Throw them in the pan. Cut up some peppers. I only had one red pepper and it was going a bit soft at one end so this recipe is for three quarters of a red pepper. I like the the colour of red or orange or yellow peppers. I rarely use green because I’m not keen on indigestion. That’s zucchini and bell pepper if you are American. I believe it’s zucchini and capsicum if you are in Australia and courgette and capsicum if you are in New Zealand.

It’s a good thing we all speak English or this could be quite confusing.

And now we have an aubergine. Chop it and chuck it in. It’s an egg plant in America, Australia, New Zealand and most of Canada. It’s an aubergine in Quebec and the UK.

Perhaps people could confirm that this is correct, it will give us something to talk about while we are in lockdown.


It’s approximately ratatouille

I used one tin of tomatoes, some puree and some water because I’m trying to conserve tinned tomatoes – they are in short supply round here. Add dried herbs. I just use mixed herbs. Sometimes I use Italian Mixed Herbs. I suppose I ought to be using the Provencal mixed herbs, but you don’t always see them around. To be honest, they are all exotic and foreign to me, and my palate is not sophisticated.

I should use garlic but I’m out of the bottled stuff at the moment and couldn’t be bothered to slice any of the fresh stuff.

After that you simmer it a bit. If you are lucky it comes out rich and gloopy. If you aren’t lucky you just have to say “it’s supposed to be crunchy” or “in some parts of France it’s traditional to serve it as a soup” or “If you’re so clever, you can do the cooking.”

Divide it into two lots, reserving the cooking liquid, if any, for the second lot.

Serve the first with sausages, veggie burgers or baked potatoes. Or pretty much anything you fancy – those are just my three main choices. As you will see, I served it with garlic bread and broccoli last night – we had some left-over garlic bread slices and the broccoli was looking a bit the worse for wear at the back of the fridge so it all went on the plate.


That broccoli looks really bad when photographed…

The second lot should be mixed with cooked pasta. If possible have this portion a bit more liquid than the first lot so it coats the pasta. When you are ready to eat, sprinkle cheese on top and reheat it in the oven. Now it’s pasta bake and you can’t be accused of serving the same thing twice in two days.

Preparation time – about 20 minutes for the ratatouille, about 15 for the pasta bake (mostly boiling pasta). Cooking time – about twenty minutes I suppose, I never really check.

Ingredients – onions, courgettes aubergines, peppers, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, mixed herbs, garlic, possibly water. You can get by without aubergines and peppers if necessary and you can put mushrooms in, though I’m not sure you are meant to.

And that, dear reader, is another part of the mystery. It’s not my money or my cheerful disposition, and as you can see from the recipe, it’s not my cooking. What does Julia see in me?




Some New Challenges

Whilst shopping this afternoon I had a flick through the cookery magazines.

That’s two challenges in one. The first is to stop buying magazines. They are expensive and never as useful as you think they are going to be. I’ll only be buying magazines this year if they have enough free seeds with them to justify the price.

To reinforce the message I’m going to remind myself that it takes me half an hour to earn the money to buy an average magazine.

Second challenge is to find some new recipes.

It’s easy to get bogged down with the same old things. Traybake, pasta bake, vegetable curry, fish pie, cottage pie, stew, hash…

I could do with some new ideas.

Fortunately, I don’t need to get ideas from magazines as there are loads of new ideas on the internet. I will have to see what I can find. I also have a big stack of cookery books. They have all come from charity shops and the food looks lovely.

Time too, I think, to get the slow cooker out again.

Writer’s Block

A proper post on writer’s block would, I suppose, be blank.

What I really mean is that I’m having trouble concentrating and writing anything coherent that has a chance of being interesting for people to read.

Got up, complained about knees, procrastinated, ate breakfast with wife, avoided washing up, watched TV, moaned about weather…

It’s not riveting stuff is it? I’m hoping it’s just the normal dull stuff that everyone does. You do all have mornings like that don’t you, it’s not just me? If you don’t, please don’t tell me. It’s bad enough that I’m having a bad day without finding that I’m the most boring man on WordPress.

I’m supposed to be planning, but that didn’t go well either.

The 50 new recipes I’m planning to make by the end of the year have ground to a halt because I have limited enthusiasm for poorly seasoned veggie burgers. It’s the fault of the recipe, but that doesn’t make them taste any better. The Mark 2 version with double seasoning, plus lime juice, lime zest, Henderson’s Relish and half a teaspoon of chilli powder is still bland, though a definite improvement on Mark 1. I may have to resort to using salt, but if I do that I might as well just buy them from a shop.

The killer CV (resume to those of you living in the New World) lives only in my imagination because I’m leaving job applications until after I’m sorted out health-wise. There’s no point getting a job interview if you then have to tell people you’ll be needing time off for medical reasons as soon as you start.

Then there is the redesign of the garden. We’ve neglected it badly for the last few years and it needs some serious attention. It’s an embarrassment. So I’m going to avoid talking about it.Yesterday I bought one of those tools for weeding between paving slabs without bending down. Tomorrow I may get round to using it. Then I will have to decide on the future of the slabs – they aren’t very permaculture…

Finally, fitness and diet.I’m doing more walking and birdwatching so that’s going OK. The diet seems to be working too, but when you think of the failed recipe experiments that’s not a surprise. I suppose some good is coming from those veggie burgers…



First day of the next week

It’s the end of January and the first day of a new week. Being accurate, I suppose it’s the second day of the week, but it always seems like the first. It’s certainly the one that I treat as being the first working day of the new week. Julia, working from 6.00 to 16.30 on Sunday, doesn’t really share my enthusiasm for Mondays.

We originally said we’d have January off, and without us actually doing anything it seems like it’s going to work out just right.

Julia is looking about 10 years younger with the responsibility of running Quercus and the Centre lifted from her shoulders and is slowly becoming more cheerful. Meanwhile, I can feel my enthusiasm returning.

Julia has already had a couple of enquiries from people about her availability for work, but we’re taking things slowly and making sure we only take on work that suits us.

Nobody has asked me if I’m available yet, but I’m trying not to take it personally.

Julia decided to do the laundry this week as she doesn’t altogether trust me with delicate whites. I don’t either, to be fair, which is why I don’t own any. I do own a white shirt, which I wear with one of my two ties for special occasions. White shirt and black tie for funerals. White shirt and rugby club tie for weddings etc.. Everything else can be taken care of by a coloured shirt. (For these purposes lightish grey counts as white).

I went to the park and then shopping. They have been cutting trees on the island in the duck pond. Moorhens, Black Headed Gulls and Wood Pigeons were feeding on the grass around the pond, whilst nothing much was happening on the pond. The Mandarin, the Greylags, the Heron and about half the Tufted Ducks were all absent. I’m not sure where the next nearest pond is – I will have to look into it.

I’m currently perfecting some new recipes as part of my new commitment to eating a better variety of healthy food. We had tragically under-seasoned bean burgers bean burgers on Saturday, excellent sweet potato, ginger and chilli soup on Sunday (even if I do say so myself) and Welsh Rarebit for lunch today, which (after three weeks of trying) was just about right.

Now all I need to do is make it again, note the measurements and write the recipes. That’s the worst bit of the job. Apart from eating badly made bean burgers…


I can’t remember quantities

I made soup for the bread group on Thursday and for Men in Sheds on Friday. Both lunches were very enjoyable for me and people ate all their soup so they probably enjoyed it too. I was just thinking, though, that I don’t actually have a recipe for soup.


Men in Sheds

I have a range of ingredients, and a size of pan, but no measurements or fixed ingredients. Normally it doesn’t matter, but at times like now, when I’d like to write down a recipe, I can’t.

Basically, for Spicy Pumpkin you want some potatoes, garlic and onions lightly fried till soft, then you add some pumpkin you’ve roasted in the oven, half a biggish red chilli and a a chunk of ginger slightly smaller than one of my thumbs. Add ground cumin if you have any (I didn’t so I decided to use nutmeg but I’ve lost the grater so I ended up using thyme). Boil it up with a couple of litres of water and two stock cubes, check the seasoning, blitz it and you’re done.


Spicy Pumpkin

If you think that’s vague you won’t like the Leek and Potato soup, which has fewer ingredients and features a few onions, some potatoes (enough to justify their place as a main ingredient) and some leeks (ditto). Ignore where books say “white parts only” as that is pathetically short on most bought leeks, and the green still tastes good. Stock etc, blitz, done.


Leek and Potato

Not sure what sort of cook this makes me but I do know it makes me a lousy cookery writer.

Today I made soup for the shoot, but that was easy, I just opened cans. They had canned soup (supermarket), bread roll (local baker), sausage roll (local butcher), fruit pie (supermarket) and cream – all for under £1 per person for 28 people. I’m not saying it’s good food, but it isn’t that bad either, and it’s cheap; i couldn’t feed them for that.

The soups I just made run out at around 50p per person when you press the supermarket button on recipe websites.

I’m going to pause now and remind myself why I make home-made soups.