Kitchen Diaries III by Nigel Slater

So last night I took delivery of the latest version of the Kitchen Diaries which I have been lost in for a large part of the last 12 hours

It’s too early for a review. I can say that the prose does not disappoint but the recipes have left me wondering on several occasions “where the hell will I find that in rural Warwickshire !”

More later I have to work

Advertisements

Random Act of Cookery

Featured

About a year ago I was minding my own business tapping away at the PC at work when someone dropped an amazon parcel on my desk… 2 colleagues had clubbed together and surprised me with a birthday present the Polpo recipe book…

Which aside from lots of lovely food, has a cute octopus on the front, what’s not to like… especially if cute octopus also means recipes for cooking cute octopus…(yes, in case you are wondering I have eaten both Bambi and Thumper… I am heartless)

I did my usual read through “ohhh that looks nice, must make that etc” and then, comprehensibly failed to make anything… lots of good intentions here, very little action

So… it is birthday time again and the Polpo cookbook has spent 12 months gathering dust… I made a promise to myself that I would make at least 1 recipe from it a week and I would choose the recipe randomly by asking people to suggest numbers for me up to 250 something…

And then depending on what it was I’d either make a scaled down version for my lunch or make it for the family… because as usual what has stopped me cooking has been the thought “oh, they probably won’t eat that”

So first up is a photo of the cute octopus on the cover of the book… and the first random act of cookery which is a less than taxing spinach with garlic and chilli with poached egg and some grilled tomatoes…

image

image

It’s randomness was achieved by my favourite approach to cooking which is “open the fridge – now, what needs using”

I’m allowing myself a free pass for next week, on asking O mighty Tim to suggest a number he said 12… which turned out to be part of the introduction. On changing it to 112 it turned out to be a recipe involving cuttlefish

In view of the fact that my home is about as far from the sea as you can get I shall put that on hold until I find myself in the same place as 500g of cuttlefish

Next weeks recipe may be lacking in randomness except that it will probably be something involving Asparagus… watch this space.

The Spinach ? Oh that was ok, went well with the egg, but both were improved by splashing some balsamic over them… I was aiming for the tomatoes but missed and got the rest of the dish…serendipity

The Diet Doctors Inside and Out (a sort of review)

Featured

I don’ believe in diets and I don’t as a rule EVER follow a particular diet supposedly guaranteed to drop inches off my measurements… not since 2001 as far as I can remember when I dutifully followed a 7 day juice detox (having worked out that if I froze the lunchtime juice and took it to work it was in perfect condition by lunchtime) and ended up feeling by day 4  completely shattered and with very spotty skin…no doubt it was because “all the toxins were forcing their way out of your body”…

Who knows, but I’ve not followed a known diet regime since then, even when I follow the Matt Roberts Fat loss programme I only do the exercise part and ignore the diet side.

It is surprising to discover that I do actually have several books about dieting lurking around the house including The Diet Doctors Inside and Out – The ultimate 12 week diet plan…I think my Mum found it in a charity shop and passed it on to try and distract me from what she describes as that “Boot Camp”…I haven’t managed to get past week 6 of Matt Roberts programme the last 2 times I’ve tried it as I end up injured !

The Diet Doctors Inside And Out: The 12-week plan to make you slim for l By Dr Samina Showghi

I had a flick through this when it entered the house and put it down quite quickly as it wanted you to do a quiz and then didn’t seem to do anything with the results… well the book resurfaced a couple of weeks ago in a house reorganisation and I discovered that the results are actually listed in the back…AND discovered that actually my diet was not as healthy as I thought…so I sat down and read the book.

It’s basic principles are in line with what I’ve been trying to do, namely  if you want to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you use.  They advocate achieving this in the following way

1. Move more

2. Eat more vegetables, less red meat and less carbohydrates, less fat

3. Portion Control…and don’t overeat

4. Cut out the junk and processed food – less sugary high fat food

5. But should not just be a one off 12 weeks “diet”. It is about adopting good food habits for life…you are slowly changing your habits over the 12 weeks so that they become part of your lifestyle.

Sounds sensible enough right ?

They divide what you eat into 5 groups. Most of your diet should be made up of fruit and vegetables and the group 2 foods of bread rice pasta and potatoes. What they don’t explain clearly is that both group 1 and group 2 foods are carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables are usually more carbohydrate than anything else, the Group 2 foods are carbohydrates with more starch in them than the group 1 and they advocate trying to eat less processed versions…in fact they say “we want you to drop white refined and processed versions of the group 2 foods”

…and it is here I have a bit of a problem because I have yet to meet a whole wheat pasta that I like and I find brown rice far too much like hard work. I’d rather just eat a small portion of the more processed types…wholegrain bread I don’t have too much of a problem with but good bread generally is hard to find when you don’t have lot of time to shop. It’s also not clear where pulses fall within their 5 food groups, I’m presuming it’s Group 1 or are classed as unrefined group 2 foods…

But anyway, I’m going to give it a go, 1 week at a time and see whether it helps the weight level to go down more than it is at the moment…at the moment my waist measurement is fairly static.

Waist measurement currently = 32 inches

Pottering in the kitchen…Fabrice’s Ratatouille

Featured

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.

Delia’s Fast Roast Chicken

Featured

“If you sometimes feel depressed or let down, if you are suffering from the pressures of life, or simply having a plain old day, my advice is to roast a chicken”

This is the start to chapter 4 of Delia How to Cook, Book 2 which is where I decided to start,  because there was a chicken in the fridge and becasue it is February and I find February a hard month to get through and Delia is right, a chicken roasting in the oven (especially one with a lemon up its bum) just makes the day feel a little bit more golden.

So I started with Fast Roast Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon and I was worried, really worried about the timing of this because I have it ingrained within my internal cookery book that a chicken cooks at 20 minutes a lb plus 20 minutes so to be told that my 3lb chicken would cook in 45 minutes had me feeling very nervous…

But it works, it does, bang on 45 minutes the chicken came out and it was done perfectly…and the gravy was spot on and we were all happy and feeling that little bit more spring like…and there were leftovers (2 stir fries and a chicken sandwich).

This is probably the easiest recipe to do from the point of view that all the family will eat it…chapter 1 is patchy, chapter 2 (fish) is for me alone…

The Tyranny of the Lunchbox

Featured

I loathe making packed lunches day in day out…there, I’ve admitted it.  Odd because I love picnics and what is a packed lunch but a picnic in miniature ? I haven’t always hated them, in fact when Spider first started having lunch twice a week as “lunch club” at preschool I spent most of the week planning them and trying to make them fun and enjoyable.

But now some 4 years on, 4 years during which the amount of things he will eat has been  rapidly decreasing (and inconsistent, one week he will eat something the next week it’s “But Mummy, you KNOW I don’t eat that !!!), I just find it dispiriting and a grind…and I’m not alone, I don’t think Flapjack Queen has made flapjacks in over 18 months

His Grandma has had some success with evening meals and has discovered he will eat a lot of things he says he doesn’t like if you cover them with breadcrumbs.

Anyway I have decided it is time to rejuvenate the lunchtime experience for both of us, to try and inject some fun and variation into what has become a sort of “if it’s monday it must be cheese” experience…although maybe drawing up a spreadsheet to record progress may have been taking things a bit too far !

So tonight I have tried to restart my Domestic Goddess qualifications – spurred on by the guilt of the knowledge that my Spider had a Cadbury’s mini roll in his packed lunch every day last week – I flicked through Cake Days:Hummingbird Bakery to see if there was anything I could make from the storecupboard… pity poor Spider as despite page after page of baked yumminess I appear to have picked the most healthy and boring recipe in the book.

Cooling in the kitchen are Apricot Crunches which are a sort of fruited flapjack. I had been worried by the amount of butter involved until I realised they use butter and sugar instead of golden syrup and not in addition. Result for me is that for once I can get my flapjack out of the tin…however the mixture didn’t set too well and is prone to crumbling…I think possibly a higher oven temp next time to make the sugar and butter become” sticky”.

It’s not much, but it is at least a start…and it’s only monday

Doing Delia – take 2

Featured

About 18 months ago I decided to work my way through Delia Smiths’s How to Cook. To begin with I did quite well but I hit 3 problems and ground to a sudden definite stop…pretty much a stop to cooking not just a stop to the project.

Why ?

1.  The first 3 chapters are about eggs… I got bored

2. Fat…Delia uses oodles of cream and butter. The book is swimming in the stuff, I stuck it out for page after page but then after making the Banana and Butterscotch trifle I couldn’t take anymore and went on a diet (and lost interest in cooking anything).

3.  The Egg and Lentil Curry recipe – this is one of the first recipes in the book. I have bought green lentils on at least 3 occasions but never yet made the curry… I told myself it was because we had no lime pickle but this time for the “Doing Delia” project I finally bought a jar…but still didn’t make the curry. Why ?

Me: “Do you want Egg and green lentil curry for tea ?”

Husband: “Sounds piggin’ horrible”

and he’s right of course, the sound of it just doesn’t lend itself to thoughts of a tasty meal…(I won’t go into what your thoughts will turn to because I bet you are already thinking that aren’t you !). But Delia obviously thinks a lot of the recipe as it’s not the only book to include the recipe…and must think it so good that she doesn’t care that it might put people off from trying the rest of the book (guess that’s the power of TV for you).

And How to Cook Book 1 is not the only book, there are 3 books in the How to Cook series so the solution it would seem is to do the other 2 books first  because there seems to be slightly less cream (marginally), no repeating a key ingredient for 3 chapters and, more importantly, no lentil and egg curry !

As I don’t own Book 3 I shall start in the middle of the series with Book 2… I will be back…but for now there is Heston on Channel 4…

Asparagus

Featured

One of the perks of being a spring baby, apart from the fact you get to pretend each year that the world has turned blue just for you (saw my first bluebells today), is all the fabulous foods you could eat for a birthday meal such as salmon, new potatoes, asparagus, peas – all which taste wonderful with a bit of butter.

But butter is off the menu for me at the moment, which makes me wonder what to do with asparagus.

Asparagus is one of the best things about May. Growing up in Worcestershire it was a common sight to see small stalls outside (mainly farm) gates with an honesty box and a price of 50p a bundle. I was very surprised later to discover it was considered a bit “posh”. I haven’t always loved “Sparrowgrass” though…it used to be on the (small) list of foods I didn’t eat having encounted it tinned at the age of 6. But now I am crazy about the stuff and am already on the hunt for the first local source.

Asparagus is the first chapter in Tender but I don’t think I will be growing it as I don’t have enough space in the garden and its a lot of hassle when its just me that eats the stuff. Also I doubt I will be doing many of the recipes from this section as they all involve “fat” in some form (soft cheese, bacon/pancetta, butter etc). There is quite a healthy looking pilaf though…and there is always soup, dipping it in a soft boiled egg, roasting.

I’m afraid my family will just have to put up with the fact that my pee smells a bit strange because, despite my self-imposed butter ban I am looking forward to eating fields of the stuff. Bring on the spring !

Birthdaysaurus

Featured

Apologies for the lack of posts here of late. I lost interest in food, food in general including cake.  Cooking was happening here, mainly by Husband but I did my fair share (I don’t think its fair in a relationship for it to always be one partner who ends up having to do a particular thing – although we do both agree that it’s pointless asking me to map read !) but I just had no desire to write about it, because my heart wasn’t in it.

I did make an effort for special occasions such as Spider’s 5th birthday, but there were so many other things going on that I forgot to take a picture – fortunately my Mum turned up complete with camera and managed to capture the gigantic beast in the kitchen, shortly after having his neck stuck back on (with water !) and some time before it was consumed by a hoard of hungry party goers…

I still have no interest in food – but that may be about to change. We have spent most of today reclaiming our back garden and filling a skip with builders waste (old wood, broken doors and windows etc) – We kept some wood for making raised beds and I have a big box full of seeds, Nigel Slater’s “Tender v1” (which incidently is currently half  price at Amazon) and a sneaking feeling that if I want to shift his next stone of weight I probably should major on the vegetables this summer as well as the exercise (4 mile walk last night and 5 hours of shifting builders rubbish today).

Tonight though I’m feeling too tired to do anything but collapse…