I have run out of energy and enthusiasm and am longing for my bed. Spider has been a complete brat all day.

Z is for zabaglione – which is a wonderful indulgent italian dessert, which can be done in the microwave, but it is a fine line between liquor flavoured egg custard and scrambled egg with alcohol… the way I feel at the moment I know that I would serve up the latter whereas I long for the former.

Husband set off for the co op 5 minutes ago and has returned with some fairtrade chocolate…so I am logging off for some guilt free (calories what calories at least it doesn’t  exploit anyone except the one eating it).

Food Hero: My Husband

For many reasons I would place my husband under Y. Partly because he probably the inspiration for the last few recipes, in an abstract way…or least his family history is.

It has not gone unnoticed that there has been a run of welsh recipes (Bara Brith, Leek Soup and welsh cakes). I am not welsh, despite spells in Cardiff and on Anglesey, but Husband is, avowedly so (despite being born in Wolverhampton) and in the run up to the 6 nations even more so…I even note that the Student (who 12 days ago started a blog) is also remembering (in the context of rugby) that he is 1/4 welsh.

His cooking however is not reminiscent of his welsh blood – I don’t think his grandma cooked. From everything I’ve heard from other relatives I think she considered herself to good to cook. He has a small repertoire of dishes that he cooks very well and without looking at a recipe. He has no pretensions towards posh cookery and doesn’t claim to be anything he isn’t and quite frankly what he does put on the table is very good. I would love to put up here the recipe for Manchester Cheese on Toast but he keeps this secret close and won’t even let me in the kitchen when he makes it.

My husband also makes a pretty mean yorkshire pud but won’t share his method. All I know is that it uses 250ml of bitter and takes 40 minutes to cook and that he never gets around to cooking it until I’m advising the family that dinner will be on the table in 20 minutes.

Husband I love you. And thank you for doing all the cooking in January I will try and get home earlier in February – promise !

Larousse Gastronomique

X is difficult. Larousse Gastronomique only has one entry, and quite frankly if that’s all they can come up with then I think I can get away without having anything else.

Ximenia – Type of small plant found in hot countries, of which there are a number of species, among them the ximenia of Gabon which is widespread in Africa. The fruits known as mountain plums or wild limes, are edible…

Hayley’s Gran

Hayley’s Gran was a glorious set of coincidences of going to university in a particular city, choosing a particular course, a particular set of Hall’s and then the randomness of university accommodation allocation. I was very lucky in my neighbours in the first year of university and ended up living with them for the following 2 years. We are all still in touch some 20 years later, but with children there’s not really the time to keep up.

Hayley was (and still is) a Valkyrie of a welsh girl, 5ft 11 with long auburn hair, amazing blue eyes and a stunning sense of style. She came from a small town about 30 miles away from Cardiff and as a result of such relative closeness she tended to see her parents about every 2 weeks. In the first year I too saw my parents quite often as they only lived a train journey away in Reading…unfortunately they moved to Anglesey half way through my second year !

I lived for sunday evenings, if Hayley had been with her parents as she always came back with food and often within the various bags and packages she came back with there was a batch of Hayley’s Gran’s Welsh cakes.

Despite many attempts over the years I have just never managed to match the splendor of these little sultana dotted cake biscuits and this evening has been no different…if only I’d asked for the recipe and the method when I was at university.

This evening’s attempt was using a recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess on the new griddle – they burnt…they were at least drier and less “fried” than usual, but it wasn’t Hayley’s Gran’s standard. Didn’t bother with a photo as they were disappointing – am still eating them though as I need some sort of consolation for the fact that Spider has refused everything I have made today, that really makes me feel worthless and no good at my “job”

The midget fidget and the bacon and apple pie

The midget fidget is Spider, he just does not know how to be still. Shropshire Fidget Pie on the other hand is a potato and bacon mixture covered in suet pastry as demonstrated on the Victorian Farm (BBC 2) the other night.

I am getting addicted to this programme. I started watching it initially as background for family history as some of Husband’s ancestors we were surprised to discover came from Shropshire…obviously hiked down the A5 when times were bad, but before that were miners and agricultural workers from some of the nice little villages that are now buried by Telford.

I must admit that I am having to fight the strong desire to turn the back garden into a smallholding a la Tom And Barbara Good – those piglets look so cute…fortunately they don’t stay cute otherwise I could see problems ahead when having to er, make use of them when they are older !

Anyway this Fidget Pie looks like a good budget recipe. They made it with a suet pastry but since our suet is a bit suspect I’ve just made a simple short crust pastry. I had to buy some more bacon as we only had 2 rashes which I suspect would not be enough but I did have a cooking apple in the fridge and some cider we brought in for the Fairy Goth Mother at Christmas which didn’t get used. I had to search the internet though for cooking times for a conventional oven. A recipe for Shropshire Fidget Pie is here

Pie sitting on the side waiting to be cooked either on sunday or on monday depending on what we are doing tomorrow.

Spring cleaning the fridge

When I was younger spring for me started when the bluebells came out (it also meant it was almost my birthday). At university spring arrived on the 1st March with the daffodils and St David’s Day. Just before Spider was born  I discovered snowdrops and ever since then the appearance of snowdrops heralds a mad session of cleaning and organising for me (the nesting instinct !).

So here we are, almost february and I’m in organising, cleaning and filling the freezer mode. Last night I roasted some sweet potatoes  which were bought short dated at the co op 2 weeks ago (eek). On skinning them this morning I discovered that they were purple fleshed ones…suspect I’m going to be the only one eating the falafel if they are purple not orange. Recipe here.

Most of the veg has ended its life in a leek and potato soup – normally I serve this with soda bread (a great standby on days you have run out of bread, buttermilk can be substituted by milk and s teaspoon of white wine vinegar) – but today it will be the remains of the 2 loaves in the kitchen (1 white, 1 brown – don’t ask, I’ve been an indulgent Mummy). I don’t use a recipe for the soup, I simply slice an onion up and fry it in butter until its soft, add whatever leeks I have available (sliced), and a couple of finely diced potatoes. Put the lid on and sort of fry and steam it for about 5 minutes (keeping an eye on the pan to make sure it doesn’t stick). Then add a pint of stock (vegetable or chicken) and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Puree the vegetables and then add some milk.

Today’s version has the addition of a stick of celery and some spring onions added at the same time as the leeks.

If you want a proper recipe then try this one

Oh and if you serve it cold then it’s vichyssoise.

Ursula’s (wholemeal) Pizza

I challenged myself at the beginning of January to post in alphabetical order. There were some rules, I was allowed to bend the subject matter of the letter a little, I would not buy lots of ingredients in specially for the recipe and I would cook things that we would normally eat. On days where I didn’t have the time to cook or the inclination I could write about something related to food, like a chef.

So I was so pleased to discover this recipe under “U” in Leon:Allegra McEvedy and then to realised that the only strong flour left in cupboard was wholemeal, I have all the ingredients in the cupboard for the sauce and I can tailor the toppings to something the family will eat.

But wholemeal ? Do I eat wholemeal pizza ? Yes, in  fact a slice of wholemeal pizza, topped with pumpkin seeds from the health food shop in Llangfni (Anglesey) used to be my treat in the summer I left university…there weren’t a lot of jobs around that year and even less when you were living away from the main stream on a welsh island. Not a lot of jobs around now, and homemade pizza is cheap if you have the time.

And time is something I don’t have a lot of which is why its taken until saturday for me to make the dough. Its in the fridge now having a long long slow rise (a la Nigella Lawson) ready for movie night tonight – I’m off now to clear out the veg drawer in the fridge – fun (not!).

Oh almost forgot, can’t find recipe for this out on the web and I’m not posting it here as there is a mistake in the book (you add the yeast twice in 2 different ways, I did what I thought made sense but I won’t know until tonight whether it’s worked). Recipe for a  similar wholemeal pizza is here.

Stuck ?

No, not stuck, I have a post for both U and V, although I may not necessarily do them in the right order as one involves clearing out the veg drawer and the other involves letting some dough rise… besides I’ve only just cooked the Bara Brith (using a sainsbury’s teabag and a rosehip teabag)…it has been a very tough and tiring week.

tea and a slice of tea cake

tea and a slice of tea cake

What I am struggling with is finishing off the alphabet posts before the end of the month as I’m not sure I can manage cooking 6 things before I run out of day tomorrow.

I am so so tired…

oops, didn’t read the recipe

No Bara Brith as I didn’t read the recipe properly last night, the fruit needed soaking overnight – and now its soaked for the required time I am really not in the mood for doing it…the day started so well watching the lambs frisking in the fields whilst their mum’s looked on, I even saw snowdrops…

And then I get home to discover that Derek the Dirty Diesel has gone pop…and Husband is making phonecalls to find a cheap replacement – so if anyone has a cheap run about going for about £500 max then please email !

Sometimes even cake can’t stave off the blues for me…

ps  ignore the bit about the run about – Husband has just come in to say he’s bought one…now we have to find £500 to pay for it…I guess Derek will have some scrap value !

What goes with Jam and Bread ?

Tea. Apparently. It also goes very well with cake, and in cake… I read somewhere the other day that “afternoon tea” is making a comeback. That lovely ritual of small sarnies, little cakes or scones or best of all a toasted teacake. It would appear that in times of crisis, despite the rise of coffee in the last 10 years, the Brits, especially the English reach for their cuppas.

My day is punctuated, almost timetabled by important cups of tea which help me get through the day. The gasper, the first cup on waking, drunk in the dark as I slowly collect my thoughts together to tackle the day. The catch up cuppa with my parent when I drop Spider off. The procrastinator, the one I drink when I reach my desk as I sort the inbox into urgent and delete…

The Teenager is itching to cook with it, or correction he wants to try smoking food in a biscuit tin, having watched Jamie Oliver at the Food Show I think, woodshavings however make me think far too much of the bottom of a gerbils cage, so come summer (as I don’t fancy a kitchen thick with smoke) I may let him experiment with a biscuit tin and some loose tea…

I spent my lunch hour cruising the 4 floors of this building trying to cadge an Earl Grey teabag as I’m planning some budget cooking not involving a muffin…I have some not particularly good dates, some sultanas and some prunes to use up. The plan is Bara Brith…a real “tea” cake.