Tomatoes from the Jungles of Holland!

pretty multi coloured cherry tomatoes

~  Menu  ~

A Crunchy Peanut Butter and Cheese Patty
Jungle Tomato Salad
White Wine Spritzer

dutch jungle tomatoes pinterest image

I know quite a lot about food so was surprised to only recently discover that lovely tomatoes can be found in the jungles of Holland.
Quelle Surprise as the Dutch doubtless say.

These little darlings not only looked good they were sweet and delicious, I ate them as part of a peculiar little test lunch.

I have less than a  month to submit the manuscript of my book (see below) and so much to eat before I do so.

Pin to spread this exciting news!  

Today I tried munging together crunchy peanut butter and cream cheese with grated cheddar and breadcrumbs to make a nutty cheese patty type thing.  It worked!  

peanut butter and cream cheese fritter with tomato salsa

I really thought it wouldn't which is why I only made one and am still a bit peckish.  Perhaps I’d  better test something else in a minute.

lovely stone built pele tower in northumberland

We are still Up North and probably will be so for a while – lots of things to sort out here.  Sometimes, however, we have time for a little relaxation and yesterday we went to Ponteland which was a very surprising village near Newcastle.  

Ponteland (pronounce pont ee land, not pontiland as some southerners think - I know, I am one) is a pretty little place, lots of grass and trees, a river, lovely buildings of old golden stone, an ancient pele tower and a Waitrose!!  

Yes, that’s what I thought - a whole Waitrose in one village! We've only got one in all of Cornwall.  Obviously the whole thing about it being “grim Up North” is a lie.

So that’s it I’m afraid – I have so much to do and have limited internet time as I’m afraid I’m on the dongle.  At my age!

My Book on Leftovers ~ News from the Future

My book was published in March, 2013. Originally titled The Leftovers Handbook a second edition is now available and is called Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers.  

In it I give all the information, good ideas and I can think of for over 450 possible leftovers. 

the ultimate leftovers cookbook!

It's a Sloe Time of Year ...

... at least it is in Cornwall where, I suppose, things come into season earlier than they do Up North.  People are out stripping sloes from the bushes even as I speak and I can’t say I blame them; to my mind Sloe Gin is the very best possible use not only for gin, which I dislike, but indubitably for sloes too as they are yuk to eat! 
Many people insist that sloes shouldn’t be picked until there has been a frost but if you wait that long you are in danger of someone less patient having already picked the berries.  One way round this problem is to freeze them yourself before thawing and using them, another is to prick each sloe with a clean darning needle!  Do people still have such things?

Sloe Gin

Pin for future reference!
500g sloes ***
250g sugar
1 ltr gin

~   Prick or freeze and thaw your sloes and put them into a large sterilised jar – a Kilner or similar.
~   Add the sugar and the gin.
~   Seal tightly.
~   Put in a cool, dark place and give it a viddy sherrek (Cornish for good shake) every day until you can discern that the sugar has completely dissolved.
~   Leave it alone for as long as you can – a few months at least, but apparently the longer it sits the better it is and we are talking years here.

*** If by some strange chance you don't have scales then sloes weigh about 2g so count 250 of them and you should be OK!

There, that wasn’t difficult was it, apart from the waiting bit.  The trick is to make some every year so that you have some by.  Here is a bottle I have just started from last year’s batch.


I seem to have stored it an inappropriate whisky bottle, I can’t remember why. 

Sloe gin has a lovely rich sweet flavour, undisturbed by the original juniper taste of the gin and is a kind of autumnal Rumtopf and is perfectly delish on its own.  Some people who like messing with nature have come up with a number of cocktails using it, however, including one called the Hermione Granger containing pomegranate liqueur, grapefruit juice and Champagne!

Pin this!

Sloe Gin Fizz

Shake sloe gin together with a quarter as much lemon juice and a little of sugar. Strain into a chilled glass and top up with sparkling soda water. Try to do this last bit as violently as possible to encourage the fizz.

3 More Ideas for Sloe Gin

1.   Top up with Champers, which works very well as sloe gin is quite similar to Cassis.

2.   I haven’t tried it yet but I think a G & T made with sloe gin might be far more palatable to me than the original drink. 

3.   I have however tried adding a modicum of Sloe Gin to the pan juices after cooking duck and it worked very well!

Fifty Shades of Gravy ~ well, four-ish actually

Do you know what irritates me? That advert that starts ...

Do you remember how homemade gravy used to taste with real meat juices slowly simmered for that delicious home- cooked taste?

... as if it doesn’t taste the same now if you know what you are doing.

A few years ago I worked for a summer (or two, I can’t remember) in a pub, it was not really my kind of thing but I needed a job.   When I took over the kitchen I found some very strange  cooking procedures going on.   For instance carrots were steamed in the convection oven till very floppy and overcooked with no salt or butter or such then to serve they were sliced and heated in the microwave. Fish for fish and chips – get this! – was taken out of the freezer, battered and fried from frozen and THEN finished in the microwave!  Appalling behaviour.  Meat for the Sunday “roast” was tightly wrapped in foil and to my mind “steamed” in the oven.  Any juices produced were thrown away and then gravy was made in “the usual way”, so they told me.  This meant whisking hot water into universal meat flavoured instant gravy mix.  The lads in the kitchen were gobsmacked that I, a self proclaimed chef, didn’t know how to make gravy!

Traditional British Gravy which is normally Brown...

~   Roast your piece of meat properly seasoned and unwrapped.  If you have any bones or other meaty scraps laying about roast them with the meat too.
~   When the meat is cooked to your liking set it aside, lightly covered in a piece of foil, in a warm place to rest. 
~   Pour all the juices from the roasting pan into a bowl, jug or best of all a fat separating jug.
~   Add some hot water to the roasting pan and stir and scrape it over a medium heat to dissolve all the yummy meat goo stuck on the bottom.
~   Add this to the juice in the bowl and leave it to sit for a while so that the fat floats to the top.
~   Once this has happened carefully pour the fat into a saucepan (or the original roasting pan if you prefer) and over medium heat stir in enough flour to make a not too stiff paste.
~   Gradually whisk in all the collected meaty juices.
~   Bring to a boil, whisking till it thickens and simmer a few minutes.
~   Assess the result – if it is too thick add some hot water or stock or wine, if it is not tasty enough add an Oxo or similar.

That’s it.   When I showed the “cooks” in the pub kitchen how to do this they were so surprised they called in their front of house mates crying “Look – real gravy!”.

Gravy Variations, Ideas and Suggestions ....

~   Cook onions, carrots, may be apples, along with the meat to add flavour to the gravy.
~   If roasting a bird and you have the giblets cook them (not including  the liver as it is bitter) in a little water and use this as part of the liquid in the gravy.
~   Add sherry or Madeira to turkey gravy.
~   Add orange zest and juice, or maybe marmalade to duck gravy.
~   Instead or as well as serving condiments and sauces with a meal stir them into the gravy, whole grain mustard for toad in the hole gravy,  a little mustard or horseradish to beef gravy, apple sauce to pork gravy, and so on and so forth.
~   Add red or white wine to gravies as appropriate and available
~   Whisk in a knob of  butter just before serving for a rich and glossy gravy.
~   Stir in soft buttery onions cooked as detailed here.
~   Add cream to chicken gravy.

Other shades of Gravy ...

~   In the Deep South of America they serve a dish, odd sounding to us, called Biscuits and Gravy.  The biscuits are in what we in England call would call scones, not sweet ones though and sometimes made with the buttermilk.   The gravy, which is pale brown, is made by frying crumbled pork sausagemeat till cooked and then setting it aside.  Flour is added to the drippings in the pan to make a roux and then a sauce made by whisking in milk and seasoning with salt and pepper.  It is generally served as a breakfast dish.
~   Red Eye Gravy – this is simply made by frying a thick slice of ham in its own fat, setting the ham aside and deglazing the pan with strong hot black coffee.
~   Cream Gravy (traditionally served in the US with Chicken Fried Steak which is confusing in itself!) – this is just a straightforward bechamel sauce made using vegetable oil instead of butter and plain milk with salt and pepper seasoning – I know what you’re thinking!

More Gravy Matters ...

~   I’m afraid I am posting too late for this year’s Gravy Wrestling contest in Stackstead where contestants must wrestle for 2 minutes in a pool of gravy.  See here for details 

~   A gentleman known as Gravy (real name Labon Kenneth Blackburn Leeweltine Buckonon Benjamin) used to dance at cricket matches in Antigua, one wearing a wedding dress – read all about him here.

~    And see here to read about a chap called Wavy Gravy who is a comic activist! 

Wavy Gravy

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.
Erma Bombeck

I apologise wholeheartedly for having been so tardy in writing recently – lots of really good but boring reasons which I won’t go into here.  As you can tell from this post I haven’t cooked much worth reporting on either.  Hopefully I’ll be back to normal soon – I could do with a good lunch!

Please Click Here to Tweet this post ~ thank you!

Tsung yu Ping! ~ aka Chinese Pancakes

~  Menu  ~

Tsung yu Ping
A Sudden Dipping Sauce
Sparkling Water!

Although my Daddy always told me not too play with my food I often do and today I did it a lot!

I'm afraid I’m not going to tell you much about what I made as I have to save a lot of good things for my forthcoming book ~ see below. I will, however, tell you about lunch; I had a go at the old Tsung Yu Ping malarky.  

I have always fancied these but never got round to doing them so having got a bunch of spring onions free with a lettuce a week or more ago I decided now was the time. Tsung yu Ping means …

Chinese Spring Onion Pancakes – makes 8


I made the dough in my stand mixer as it is very hot and hurty to do it by hand.

200g plain flour
salt to taste
125ml boiling water.
Approx 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1 bunch of spring onions – coarsely chopped
oil for frying

~   Stir together the flour and salt.
~   Gradually mix in the hot water and knead till you have a soft dough but one that is no longer sticky. 
~   Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave for half an hour.
~   Divide into eight balls and roll each ball into a thin pancake, brush each with sesame oil and sprinkle with the spring onions.
~   Roll each pancake from one edge to form eight little snakes.  Coil up each snake and then re-roll into pancakes.  This creates layers as with puff pastry.
~   Heat about 10mm depth of oil in a frying pan and fry the pancakes till crisp and golden on each side. 
~   Drain on kitchen towel and eat them!

I didn't have quite enough spring onion to give a fair dose to all the pancakes (which, incidentally, are more like flatbreads or pastries than pancakes) so used salted cashews for the last two.

The pancakes were tender and flaky with crunchy outsides. I ate three for lunch with a sudden dipping sauce made by adding soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce to the sesame oil left in the little dish.


Later the same day I ate another three for dinner stacked up with roasted salmon which I had first marinated in the leftover dipping sauce from lunch (you see how I “work”!) and salad.  
chinese pancakes layered with salmon and salad

ultimate leftovers cookbook

I Love Leftovers!

As you can tell I am a bugger for leftovers so I wrote Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers  which is about getting the utmost pleasure out of every single scrap of food available. The waste it tackles is not that of money or of resources but of good eating opportunities. 

In Other News ...

~   Here is a sample of bus stop graffiti in Padstow – eat your heart out Banksy!

"Garlic & Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl - a Review

I used to live in the Caribbean on a boat in Trellis Bay – above.  Sometimes on visits home to the UK I would mention this and people would accuse me of being lucky.  This was not the case; it was not luck that took me to the Caribbean it was a decision to go followed by appropriate action.  (And incidentally I was very poor at the time, getting there left me with just $8 in the world!)

Reading of Ruth Reichl’s wonderful sounding career I nearly said she was lucky but I think not.  More accurately Ruth Reichl is talented, hard working and resourceful.  Either way her fab lifestyle makes me jealous.  In a nutshell she played dressing up and then ate in wonderful restaurants whilst pretending to be someone else – and she got paid for it. 

Her book, “Garlic and Sapphires ~ The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” is a lovely read; interesting, funny, informative and foodie with several recipes scattered amongst its pages.

Ruth Reichl was the restaurant critic for the New York Times and therefore very recognisable to restaurateurs, hence the need for a disguise.   She found her dining experiences when dressed as a “nobody” very different from those when dining as herself.  Which is, of course, reprehensible.  On many occasions when working as a chef I have been told that so-and-so was in house so to make sure to go the extra mile, so to speak.   This always got up my goat (as we say in my family!).  Surely the idea is to do your best at all times not just do second rate work unless someone “important” comes in.  It seems, however, that this attitude is not the norm in the restaurant business.

Anyhoo – I heartily recommend this book, give it a go – you can get it from Amazon. or visit Ruth Reichl’s own site here where there are details of her other books; “Tender at the Bone”,  “Comfort me with Apples” and “For you Mom, Finally” which I shall certainly be looking out for.

Speaking of books about food I have written a few cookbooks myself - here's my Amazon Author Page (just in case you're interested!).

In other news …

My friend Jenny of JennyEatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger has pointed out a rather lovely spam comment that I received in connection with my recent post on yukky gnocchi.  Very nicely put I thought.  Coincidentally it reminds me of my research into krumplinudli which are the same sort of things as gnocchi - perhaps it is a side effect

Here it is verbatim, I cannot see how it pertains to my blog but I am glad they took the trouble to write ~ enjoy …

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