26 November 2010

Sushi in Bed (almost) - a poor excuse for a post


~  Menu  ~
Sushi
White Wine Spritzer
A few pieces of White Chocolate
Coffee


Today’s lunch was leftovers but not of my making, rather it was Tesco leftovers purchased for 45p. I ate it in the warmest place I could find, sitting on my bed with my laptop warming my, er ... lap. I added extra soy sauce and I spurned the wasabi as I often do; to me it tastes like Coleman’s English Mustard and is not fish friendly.

I realise that this post is a bit pathetic but I really wanted an excuse to “tell the World” that I have had my first glossy magazine article published in January’s Vegetarian Living Magazine (already out!) – mine is the one called “Use Your Loaf” and I am really pleased with it. I did the photos too and they seem to have come out just fine. Clever girl me!

Another thing I wanted to mention is that I made my Christmas Cake last Sunday which was, coincidentally, Stir Up Sunday, something I had never heard of. Research - Wikipaedia - has revealed that the name "comes from the opening words of the Collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer" ...
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Through an association of ideas, or possibly sheer silliness the day subsequently became connected with the making of Christmas puddings and cakes. Further research has also revealed that the whole family is supposed to have a stir and make a wish but I didn’t know this and was, in any case, home alone. 

My darling wanted me to cook one “like his Mam used to make” but he’s lost the recipe. (In a brief aside I would like say that not only has he always made the Christmas cake in the past but once when unable to get marzipan in the Caribbean, he made that too! What a man.) So I studied a number of recipes from Delia to the Be-Ro cookbook, Dr. Oetker and several others and do you know what – pretty well the same, all of them. So I just made one and here’s a pic. I’m sorry it is only a photo of its botty but I was drizzling in some brandy at the time. The resulting Christmas Cake recipe is here.




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24 November 2010

Eating - no time to blog!

~ Menu ~

Spicy Cornmeal Hash
A glass of the usual - red flavour
Doughnut Custard Pudding
Alka Seltzer – only joking!

I am writing, or rather trying to write, an article on polenta – got lots of ideas but have to make and test them all before I commit them to paper. In fact this is why I haven’t posted for a while – too busy eating.

Today I had a lot of polenta scraps leftover and I also had some roasted vegetables left after making a pizza the other day so decided to fry the whole lot up together. Worked for me.

Spicy Cornmeal Hash

A handful of cooked polenta remnans
A handful of Spicy Roasted Veggies
Some (!) Diced Feta Cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
~ Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan.
~ Toss in the polenta and fry till hot with crispy areas.
~ Add the roasted vegetables and toss through till hot.
~ Add the diced Feta and toss through till hot.
~ Eat



Spicy Roasted Vegetables

These are excellent on pizza, in salad, with cheese on toast, as a side dish, in a wrap etc. etc.

1 courgette
1 small aubergine
1 red or yellow pepper
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Chilli flakes

~ Preheat oven to 200˚C/6
~ Cut the vegetables, except the garlic of course, into similar sized pieces.
~ Finely chop of crush the garlic.
~ Spread all the vegetables on a baking tray.
~ Drizzle with olive oil, season and add chilli flakes to taste.
~ Toss all together and roast till soft and possibly even starting to char – particularly the aubergine and the red onion.

Delicate Doughnut Pud

You know how you always feel better throwing away something that has been in the freezer a while rather than throwing it away immediately? Well my friend Carol had three frozen jam doughnuts waiting for ultimate disposal when she had what can only be called An Idea. She thawed them out and sliced them into a bowl, made a simple egg custard – she says 2 eggs, 2 tbsp caster sugar, a little vanilla extract and “about this much” milk and cream (which was about 400 ml) and baked the dish till just set. Yummy!



Rather a heavy lunch so no dinner for me!



In other news I wanted to sing the praises of the fish and chip shop at the top of Bank Street in St. Columb Major. I think it is called The Happy Fryers – but so far as I can see only on the inside; outside it is just called Fish and Chips. Anyhoo they make almost the best fish and chips I have ever had (they are neck and neck with a place Up North at Seaton Sluice). The fish is always great, copious amounts of excellent chips (even a small portion is not, strictly speaking, small) and the batter is crisp and salty and wonderful. The chips have lots of little shards and fragments of broken off batter (which my man who is of the Geordie persuasion calls “scranchies”) in amongst them
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18 November 2010

"avec les restes"

~ Menu ~

Penne Pasta “avec les Restes”
Crunchy crumbs
A few leaves – simply dressed
Small Glass Rioja

Les restes is, of course, posh French talk for leftovers, pertinent to this blog in general and aptly describes my delicious lunch today. Last night we ate an excellent beef pot roast provided by our friend Carol. She runs a comfortable, warm and friendly bed and breakfast, Number 8, in Padstow but we are staying with her for free ‘cos she loves us. I hate to throw away even the tiniest scrap of food so I kept the few tablespoons of gravy and tiny pieces of meat that were left. I had no particular plans …

Today I cooked a little pasta and tossed it in the marvelous winey, meaty juices together with scraps of meat and bits of carrot, onion, & parsnip. For crunch I sautéed some soft fresh breadcrumbs in olive oil and ate the lot with a simple leafy salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Not bad at all, matey, although it looks kinda blurred in the picture. Perhaps it wasn't such a small glass of Rioja after all, I can't remember



The weather is still pretty good, in spite of the terrible floods yesterday around the St. Austell area. Yesterday we went to Padstow for a wander in the sunshine (again) and had lunch at Rick Stein’s Café. Carol had a large bowl of lovely tender, plump River Fal mussels with tomato and chilli (and was, I have to say, a bit wimpy about the chili) and I ate a perfect salad of prosciutto, goat cheese and figs. il. We shared some skinny chips and what with the good bread and olive oil we were given we were quite full so didn’t stay for dessert. Instead we had a cappuccino on the harbour side, sitting in the sun.

There is a poem by Thomas Hood, called “November”

No sun – no moon!

No morn – no noon

No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.

No warmth, no cheefulness, no healthful ease,

No comfortable fee in any member –

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –

November!

Only the last line is true, and perhaps the bit about butterflies! I saw a bumble bee droning happily amongst some flowers today

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16 November 2010

Lovely Ripe Avocado on Toast (nothing to do with Nigella!)

Just a quick lunch!

Lovely Ripe Avocado on Toast
White Wine Spritzer
Just a Coffee


Tesco (sorry to go on about them – they are just up the road at the moment) seems to be rife with under-ripe avocados at 10p each. They are well ‘ard but as it happens I know what to do about that. As you may well know, but might not I suppose, ripening fruits release a gas called ethylene which helps nearby unripe fruits to ripen too. I always put my unripe avocados in a brown paper bag, to contain the gases, together with apples or oranges and they ripen up a treat.

My first ripe avocado from the batch we recently purchased was ready today so I had a simple meal – I toasted some lovely wholegrain bread, spread it with hot tomato and chilli pasta sauce (from my store cupboard) and sprinkled it all with crunchy sea salt. It was yummy in all sorts of ways, hot, tangy, spicy, creamy and crunchy. I love food!

In Other News ...


This bit is from the future!  In November 2015 Nigella Lawson will get a lot of scorn piled on her for publishing a "recipe" such as this but until that date no-one will have scorned me!  Lucky Nigella!

The weather is getting winterier but it’s still nice. We had a frost last night and this morning everything (well, not everything but fences and shed roofs etc.) were steaming in the sunshine. A walk into Padstow was called for …


A pretty day, and not too many people about for a change. I have tried to find out about the face in the wall, which is part of an interesting old building beside the harbour, but so far no luck.
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14 November 2010

The Wonders of Wadebridge


Today’s lunch was soup again – I’m very partial – made from the carcass of a roast chicken.

Chunky Chicken, Leek & Potato Soup
– serves 2 generously

A roast chicken carcass – not too thoroughly stripped 
(see here for useful info on this)
1 large leek 
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 large baking potato 
500 ml water or stock

~ Put the carcass into a pot (break it up if necessary) and add the water or stock. 
~ Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
~ Turn off the heat and remove the chicken from the stock - set aside a few minutes till cool enough to handle. 
~ Manually strip every last bit of meat from the bones (there are two particularly succulent nuggets of flesh, known as oysters, on the underside of the chicken), and set the meat aside. 
~ If you are not in a hurry return the bones to the stock and cook for a while longer but it’s not essential - you can always add a stock cube! 
~ Cut off the root end of the leek, remove the outer layer and cut the leek into pieces. Clean carefully. 
~ Cook the leek gently, covered, in the olive oil till soft. 
~ Peel and slice the potato and add to the leeks. Pour over the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer till the potatoes are tender. 
~ Using a potato masher crush the potatoes into the soup. 
~ Taste and season and stir in the reserved chicken pieces. 
~ Reheat as needed but Do Not Boil once the chicken has been added or it will toughen.

This is delicious with croutons and frazzled prosciutto torn into pieces and baked alongside the croutons till crisp. See here lots ofuseful info on croutons.


homemade-chicken-soup

Yesterday I popped into Wadebridge for a couple of hours – got myself some delicious soup enhancing Vicky’s bread, from Relish. I was so pleased to see The Vine open – the superb greengrocers, until very recently known as Stokes on the Platt, which had a bit of trouble, closed briefly and was saved by shop staff and the people of Wadebridge.


the-vine-wadebridge
I like Wadebridge - it's a real town with real shops, many of them, including Relish and The Vine, selling really good food; two excellent butchers (I pondered lamb shanks but I think I’ll get some later this week) a fishmonger, Granny Wobbly’s of course, and the lovely greengrocers in question – also lots of charity shops which are another reason to go there.
Fudge being made at Granny Wobbly's

We have been nomading around for years so I am used to packing up all our belongings and moving on, I thought I was quite good at it. Not so apparently - I have, for a while been wondering where some kippers had gone - opening bags and boxes in an ever more cautious manner. Eventually I decided I must have left them in our caravan which we vacated almost 2 weeks ago. – so yesterday we went and had a look. Thank God we did because they were just on the verge of becoming seriously under-pleasant and I think by next April they would have been well past their best.
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6 November 2010

Simple Spinach Soup

~ Menu ~ 

Healthy Spinach Soup 
Polenta Croutons fried in Bacon Fat – so not so healthy! 
Red Wine

This is a variation of a basic soup recipe I have been making every since I was a tiny weeny baby chef. I have always called it “Normal Soup”, dunno why. 

It is a very simple, but delicious in its own right, potato soup and guess what I add to it ... 


Whatever I like!

It always works and I have made almost every soup you can imagine (not French Onion, tho’) including a very popular West Indian Seafood Chowder (best seller on my menu!) with this recipe as a base.


Simple Spinach Soup - for 2


1 medium onion – thinly sliced 
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 small potato
vegetable stock 
2 handfuls of fresh, clean baby spinach leaves

~   Heat the olive oil and toss together with the onions till they are coated. 
~   Turn down the heat, cover the onions completely with a pieces of foil, pressing down onto the surface of the onions. 
~   Put a lid on the pan and cook very gently till they are completely and utterly tender and are starting to caramelise a little. 
~   Peel and slice the potato and add to the onions. 
~   Add enough stock to just cover the potatoes, bring to the boil, turn down the heat, put on the lid, (throw away the piece of foil or recycle it or something) and simmer till the potatoes are tender. 
~   Stir in the spinach leaves and as soon as they wilt (possibly a matter of seconds) transfer the lot to a food processor or similar kitchen tool and purée adding more stock (or you could add cream) till it is just how you like it. 
~ Taste and season.


quick-easy-spinach-soup-recipe

I topped my soup, as you can see, with a few croutons made by dicing some leftover cold polenta and frying them in leftover bacon fat – obviously! See here for lots of delicious ideas for leftover polenta!


Speaking of Polenta ...


When I worked as a chef  in the West Indies a friend gave me a tip to keep polenta smooth. 

useful-tip-when-making-polenta
In the British Virgin Islands cornmeal cooked with okra, onions etc. is a national dish called Fungi (pronounced foonjee) which can be tricky for a new chef fresh on in the islands with mushrooms on her mind. Fungi also refers to a style of music native to the Virgin Islands, a sort of skiffly amalgam of African music and European waltzes and quadrilles (would you believe!) It is played on homemade instruments such as gourds and washboards etc. and is excellent. 

For just a little more confusion and one which caused a great deal of superior laughter in the Virgin Islands; down island they call polenta “coo-coo” which means poo in the BVI !
 


easy-soup-recipes

News from the future …

I have written a whole book on this way of making soup, giving over 60 recipes plus every bit of soup-making information I can think of to help readers go on to easily create their own stunning recipes.  Read more about my soup cookbook here.
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