Pottering in the kitchen…Fabrice’s Ratatouille

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Today, the last day of the year, Husband at work and Spider and I planning on heading to the cinema…but opening the curtains, what a surprise, it’s raining, sheeting down in fact.

So Spider pottered around with christmas presents and I spent a happy hour or so sorting and tidying up the leftovers, throwing stuff out, the usual end of year clearing the decks.

On the stove, gently stewing in its own juices is a pan of Fabrice’s Ratatouille from the first Leon cookbook and let me tell you it’s made the kitchen smell fantastic ! This is not something I would normally make (fresh tomatoes, aubergine and courgettes are not popular with the other members of the household) but it has been something I’ve been dying to make since I bought the book (4 years ago ?) and it has been calling to me from the pages…and sometimes a girl just has to give in !

Most ratatouilles I’ve had in the past have been very heavy on the tomatoes and frankly cooked to a state of bitterness…this one, is perfect, mild, aromatic, a stew of vegetables and, if you go easy on the olive oil, the perfect start to a year of healthy eating…except that I ate rather a lot of bread with it to mop up the fabulous savory juices that oozed out of the vegetables.

5 out of 5…and it makes a change from end of life soup, as all these veg had seen better days.

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A bad soup

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We have a dish in our house, which is made without a recipe, it’s known as “End of Life Soup” aka “What’s in the bottom of the Veg drawer Soup” and oddly enough it works…everytime.

But sometimes I do make a bad soup but it’s never this one.

Two of the most recent bad experiments have involved the same recipe as it’s base which makes me wonder if this is a soup that has to be made as written including using stock made as per the recipe or alternatively it may be better not to liquidise.

The soup in question is the Covent Garden Soup company’s Bacon and Lentil Soup (invented to raise money for Crisis at Christmas) and it just doesn’t work for me.

The stock is a ham stock and they recommend using the poaching liquid from cooking a ham (in water a small part of brown sugar and some malt vinegar) – the first time I made it I faked a stock with a stock cube and some bacon, the second was the liquid from a ham cooked in apple juice. I can’t remember why I didn’t like the first soup but this second one was just far too sweet.

Second issue with the soup is it is just too “cloying”, the lentils (and split peas) are liquidised and even with adding extra water it just comes out as a thick brown mush.

it tastes bad, it looks bad and it smelled bad…. however you looked at it, this was just not a good soup.

However I do have lots of veg that has seen better days so hopefully the Karma of the End of Life soup will cleanse my kitchen of this unpleasant experience…

A plan

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Husband doesn’t cook roast dinners. Correction he doesn’t cook all of a roast dinner but he insists on making the yorkshire pudding, he sees it as “his role” – the same as when the sun comes out a lot of men consider that it is their role to cook, but only if they get to play with matches and a load of charcoal.

Husband claims he has no talent for cooking roasts, he doesn’t know how to get it all on the table at the same time (yet he can do eggs and bacon which requires the same skill on a smaller scale)…and when you ask him to make the yorkshire pudding you realise why he can’t do a roast dinner…it’s because he doesn’t understand the importance of a plan to a roast…so when I say “Darling, dinner will be at x therefore you need to have the yorkie ready to go in the oven by y” he comes into the kitchen at y to make the pudding and sends my carefully constructed plan awry.

I’ve learned to make the timings flexible…

Christmas Dinner traditionally in the family is very very laid back, partly due to the family habit of Champagne at 11am…and the other family tradition known as “sabotage the cook” (this is related to the champagne..!)

However it still helps to have a plan and thanks to insomnia at 3am this morning and a last minute decision not to go to work (due to the insomnia meaning driving would not be a good call today) I now have a plan.  I probably shouldn’t have left it so late, I probably wouldn’t have had insomnia if I’d had a plan and knew just what on earth I was going to be doing tomorrow and when…I may well have been sticking my head in the sand here and pretending that I don’t have to cook sprouts but since I now have a clean oven I have run out of excuses, I am cooking Christmas dinner…

Anyway, I now have a plan. There is no Yorkshire Pud in this Christmas dinner…so all I need to worry about is the champagne…

This year…

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My husband did pretty much all the cooking…I am a very lucky woman… I think possibly I could be pushing my luck here, you see we ordered for christmas

1) A turkey

2) A joint of beef – for the boxing day Christmas dinner number 2

3) A Gammon for turning into a ham and serving up as suppers, sandwiches and quick meals over the next week…

Now here comes the bit where I may be pushing my luck, you see I’m cooking Christmas dinner (for which I am thankful for the fact I came home today to discover he’d cleaned the oven…yes you read that right, my husband cleaned the oven. You all wish you found him first don’t you ?) AND I am cooking the boxing day meal   BUT…

To be helpful we told the lovely people at Glebe Farm (and at some point I will come back and link to their web page) we would pick the meat up on the 24th (as their busy day is the 23rd)…

It was only afterwards that I realised that actually we need to cook the gammon before christmas day…

I’m working tomorrow. Husband is off, with Spider…doing last minute things…including, yes Husband is cooking the gammon

I’ve left him with the relevent page of Nigella Lawson’s Feast, the Fully festive ham…with some amendments for how I want my ham

I have been, for over 10 years now, a very lucky woman… I married a man who sees a task and does it…even when it’s out of his comfort zone… but then he has informed me that in order to finally finish our kitchen off, I have to learn how to tile !