27 November 2012

Is this the World's Oldest Living Orange?


You're not going to believe this.

We are doing the final tidy up of my late father in law's flat and today in the corner of the pantry I found the above pictured orange.  He has been in there about a year and looked a bit rough ...


... but when cut in half was sweet and juicy!  So much for best before labelling.

Obviously I am in No Way recommending that we keep our fruits for ages and ages but on the other hand we don't have to be too nervous about best before dates.  

By best before dates I must stress I Do Not Mean use by dates which are to be taken much more seriously (most of the time - I don't mess with fish or meat but do rely on my own senses with dairy products) as they concern food spoilage.  Best before dates are supposed to advise when a product will be past its best but in my experience many bargains still have some considerable way to go before even reaching their prime.

Our orange is, of course, an extreme case but we are often very lucky getting a little help from our local supermarket, particularly with the “nearly out of date” stuff.  I  have recently bought a small basil plant for 15p, two perfectly good courgettes for 3p and what must have been “ripen at home” avocados (although it wasn’t mentioned) which took over a week to soften but only cost 5p each.

I am truly delighted by such a boon but, you know, the basil plant was and still is a plant for Gawd’s sake. Admittedly he is not the finest specimen of a basil plant I have ever seen but all he needs is a bit of lurve.  The little lettuces in soil also shown in the picture were in date and full price when we bought them but are now 2 weeks past their best before date, I've eaten quite a lot and new ones have grown!


Potatoes and onions treated properly (cool, dry, dark, separate from each other and with respect) will keep a good long time and in any case it’s quite likely the old potatoes for sale this week were dug at the same time as the “almost out of date” old potatoes in the reduced section.

Making cheese is a method of preservation in itself and, as rule, hard cheese keeps much longer that is implied on the label.  Nevertheless wax coated hard cheeses have bizarrely short best before dates. Why? 

And what about honey? It is virtually indestructible as I have mentioned before yet it has a best before date!

If this is a cunning plan to make people buy more food it may have backfired.  I see that my local supermarket recently overshot their waste budget by several thousand pounds, I fear they may have been hoist on their own petard, whatever that is.  Click to Tweet this rant!

Sorry about that.  Changing the subject - have a look at this ...

Big Fish!


... which is a sample of the huge portions at the wonderful fish and chip shop, Gills in Seaton Sluice that we frequent when Up North (you can just see my real man's manly fist in the top of the picture to give an idea of size).  

And here's a picture of the delicious sloppy (or mushy) peas that are served with it.





Being from Down South with my "fancy southern ways" as my real man puts it I did at first demur at this but talk about yum!

In Other News ...

I have just uploaded my finished Ice Cream book to Amazon where it is available for kindle and in paperback ~ yippee!





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18 November 2012

Seafood Chowder & Pepper "Wine"


~   Menu   ~

Seafood Chowder without ...
Hot and Potent Pepper Wine!
Croutons
A glass of Sauvignon Blanc

You know when you have a little this or that leftover and it's 'not worth keeping'?  Well it is, so there!

I keep several collecting boxes in my freezer; bread scraps, meat scraps and fish scraps, for instance.  This last collection came delightfully into play today when I made myself some Seafood Chowder. 

This was a good idea I had when I was cooking at the Tamarind Club in Tortola.  In theory it was a cunning plan to use up all the fishy scraps we had left over after preparing whole fish for other dishes.  Sadly it became so popular, especially after I had My Other Good Idea, that we were making gallons of the stuff two or three times a day. 


Seafood Chowder


2 medium onions - coarsely chopped
2 carrots - coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks - coarsely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil.
3 medium potatoes - peeled and thinly sliced
fish stock or water
a collection of fish scraps

~   Gently sweat the onion, carrot and celery in the oil till softening and just starting to colour.
~   Add the potatoes and add just enough water or stock to cover. 
~   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and cook till the potatoes are tender.
~   Whilst this is cooking prepare your fishy scraps.  As I say this was originally a use up recipe and we had, to my mind, three categories of fish to use up: 1) raw fish, 2) raw shellfish, 3) cooked fish and shellfish.  So, whatever you have of these categories, cut into similar sized pieces but keep separately in their groups. 
~   When the potato is tender mash with a potato masher (grumpy or not!) so that they are almost smooth but a little chunkiness remains.
~   Taste and season and add milk or cream or a mixture to make a rich thick soup.
~   Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and add the raw fish scraps.
~   Return to only just boiling, add the raw shellfish, return to only just boiling one more time and  add cooked fish and shellfish. 
~   Immediately turn off heat and allow the chowder to sit a few minutes to allow the last addition to heat through. 
~   If using later REHEAT GENTLY.



This is such a brilliant method for making soup that I have written an entire soup cookbook, containing 60+ delicious soup recipes based on one easy flexible key recipe together with instructions for stock making, guidance on adding herbs, spices and other flavourings plus additional recipes for roasted garlic, pepper coulis, frazzled leeks, compound butters and other garnishes and accoutrements.

My Other Good Idea was to serve the chowder with a pretty glass bottle of “Pepper Wine” for drizzling purposes.  In this case, as is often the way in the Caribbean, pepper means chilli and wine means rum.  A little really contrasts with and enhances the creaminess of the soup.

Caribbean Pepper "Wine"


Just bung some dried chillies or even pepper flakes in a bottle of rum and wait a few weeks.  After this went on the menu there was no going back.


Soup Fritters!


This chowder featured in possibly the most bizarre thing I have ever cooked – soup fritters.  We had a very on/off function pending and, eventually, it was off,  Then suddenly one Sunday afternoon, half way through a busy brunch, I was told it was on again.  Eighty people were due in a couple of hours hoping for up-market nibbly bits.  I would have liked to panic but didn’t have the time. 

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What I did do was make fish cakes out of the remains of the seafood chowder.  I can’t remember how but if I had to do it today this is what I would do.  

Strain the chowder, reserving all lumps, and bring the juices to a boil.  Thicken quite substantially with a beurre manie (flour and butter munged together) and whisked in.  Cook a few minutes and cool a while.  Mix in reserved fish etc. and enough breadcrumbs to make a malleable consistency.  Taste and flavour up – lime zest and hot sauce spring to mind.  Spread onto a cooled shallow dish and chill to firm.  Roll into balls, flatten, coat in breadcrumbs (panko are great) and shallow fry to crisp and golden.   They were such a success people asked for the recipe but I was too embarrassed to tell them.





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14 November 2012

Kedgeree ~ I'm always surprised when it's delicious!




~  Menu  ~

Smoked Bass (and other fish) Kedgeree
Glass of Secret White
A Sticky Caramel Florentine thing from Greggs the Bakers
(cheating, I know, but it was a delicious gift)

Firstly may I say how very sorry I am not to have posted for so long – almost 2 weeks.  My main reason is that I have not one but two frozen shoulders (I hope I don’t get any more!) and have been trying to keep off the computer in case all that typing when getting my book ready caused it.

I can’t stay off the computer forever though, who could?  So here I am. 

My second reason for not posting is that I haven’t been eating so interestingly as usual not having my “well stocked storecupboard” to hand and we are somewhat out of sync Up North.  Normally I have all sorts of leftovers to play with but it has taken some time to assemble a collection.  I say “assemble a collection” purposely because assembling collections is something I very much advocate; whenever I have scraps of meat, fish, bread or fruit etc. I add them to my appropriate collection in the freezer till I have enough to make something delicious.

A week or so ago we went out for fish and chips which is such a great thing to do in these parts.  My “small” haddock was far too large to eat in one sitting (and you should have seen my real man’s “standard portion”, fnarr frnarr!).  I ate what I could and then had a doggy bag.  Sadly we have no dog so I froze my leftovers till inspiration struck.

I recently cooked some smoked sea bass and couldn’t eat it all so added the leavings to my frozen haddock.

My creamy salmon and leek pie (mashed potato topping) a couple of nights ago was also too much for me so last night I defrosted my frozen fish scraps and munged some of them together with the leftover salmon and leek pie including the potato. The mixture was firm enough to form into a cake which I coated with the old panko crumbs and fried.  This was a yummy dinner with roasted tomatoes, petit pois and roasted garlic mayonnaise.  I was, however, left with a few scraps of thawed haddock and smoked sea bass to use up so for lunch today I had ….

Kedgeree

It always surprises me when Kedgeree is nice!  It doesn’t sound very promising; curried rice with smoked fish, cream and boiled eggs.  Well firstly I totally agree with myself about the boiled eggs and never include them in kedgeree but apart from them this is a delicious combination.  Guidelines only …

~   Cook an onion like this – The Best Way to Cook Onions 
~   Stir in a teaspoon of curry paste and cook a minute or two.
~   Add cooked basmati rice and toss all together till hot.
~   Toss in cooked smoked fish (and unsmoked fish if necessary) and a spoonful of double cream till heated through.

Instead of eggs I added some leftover petit pois.




So, in short, I had two very delicious meals from leftover scraps of fish that many people would throw away!  What prannets!



In Other News …

We are still Up North and the weather is still, in the main, very good.  Last week we went to York which as you probably know is well worth a visit.  I wandered around and looked at stuff whilst my darling spent the day at the National Railway Museum - I told you he's real. 

We met up at lunchtime and being outside the city walls had no idea where to eat so dined at the museum and were both pleasantly surprised.  Yes, both of us simultaneously pleasantly surprised in the food department., which is quite an accomplishment.  He had Yorkshire Sausages with all the normal trimmings and I had a Goat Cheese and Roasted Tomato Tartlet with all sort of salads including quinoa and barley and tiny new potatoes in a whole grain mustard dressing.  Not at all the sort of thing one would expect in such a place – so well done them!

We actually chose a stupid time to visit York; a sunny Saturday in half term!  For this reason I didn't go to Jorvik as planned not into Betty’s, in both cases because of the queues.  I didn't go into The Perky Peacock Coffee Shop either but I did envy them their premises.






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1 November 2012

“An Everlasting Meal" by Tamar Adler - a Review

I am a member of The Kitchen Reader – a great foodie online book club.  Every month we read a designated book, food writing rather than recipes, and review it on our blogs.  When I saw that October’s book was, “An Everlasting Meal – Cooking with Economy and Grace” by Tamar (good Cornish name!) Adler I was in two minds whether to read it or not.  On the plus side it is Just My Sort of Thing being about the use of leftovers, both incidental and planned, on the minus side I didn't want it to influence my own book  in any way.  Everything worked out perfectly however because although I ordered the book some while ago it only arrived yesterday – two days after sending my own manuscript off to my publishers.



Even better because of its late arrival I had a good excuse to lie around all day reading!  And what did I think?  Read on …

I was hooked pretty well from the start when Ms. Adler said in the introduction how much she loves M.F.K. Fisher’s book “How to Cook a Wolf” and had modelled “An Everlasting Meal” on it.  Well as M.F.K. is one of the World’s bestest food writers ever (see here for my review of her “The Art of Eating”) this sounded promising.

I find I agree very much with pretty well everything else she says too with one very minor exception.  She states in her section on eggs (written so enticingly I immediately had an egg for lunch!) that Frittatas in Italian and Tortillas in Spanish are called “egg pies” in English.  Well I have been English for bloody ages and have never heard of such a thing in that respect but only, perhaps, when referring to a quiche like dish!  Pernickety of me or what?

Tamar Adler’s writing style in unusual and attractive, she says that “beets … have their own way of being” and that “Capers are odd and wild as birds”!  Her chapter “How to Paint without Brushes” on learning about food from its touch, its smell and its sound is spot on.  As she so rightly says, something is ready when you taste it and “don’t wonder”.  Of course this does take time but is so very, very worth it.

“An Everlasting Meal” is different to my own leftovers book; it is a really good read, something to take to bed with you and enjoy (maybe just jumping up occasionally to cook an egg) whereas my own is a handbook to keep in the kitchen and refer to whenever a leftover occurs. Our thinking, however, is very much the same and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants so learn how to cook from the soul.

On the same theme here is someone else I agree with …



“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

Julia Child

About my Egg



I've had a few torn flour tortillas in the fridge for a while so made myself a baked egg in a tortilla nest.  Its easy – grease a ramekin and encourage a torn tortilla into it to form a cup. Break in an egg and top with a spoonful of cream (or in my case leftover Alfredo sauce).  Pop in a medium oven till the edge of the tortilla is crisp and golden, the white is set and the yolk is still soft.  I baked a couple of tortilla wedges alongside, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. 

Speaking of Books ...

Don't forget your 2 Free eBooks by me!

Download "219 Cooking Tips & Techniques you might find useful" which includes a bonus link for "Easy Ways to Pimp your Food!




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