Tender: Nigel Slater

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Tender came out in October 2009. I have, from time to time fondled it in various bookshops and admired the usual beautiful photographs, carefully chosen paper and print style and of course his wonderful wonderful words…I didn’t admire the price though (£25 full price – amazon currently have it half price). So thinking carefully about it I resolved, no more recipe books. I have enough. Maybe in the future if I see it secondhand…

Mum, thankfully, ignored my resolve and for that she had a special hug on Christmas day…which surprised her as she was in the middle of taking the turkey out the oven !

Thankfully since Christmas we have been living on leftovers which has given me plenty of time to hideaway with my beloved Nigel, pouring over his beautiful prose and planning the vegetable garden. Maybe this year I will get it off the ground – last year my seedlings withered in the kitchen when we were let down over the promised allotment.

It’s timely too as one of my plans this year is to get more vegetables into our diet…I have a sneaking suspicion that it may lead to less colds and a general feeling of well being.

Despite the fact that the kitchen is currently our of commission (see previous post) I do have a vegetable soup on the go (The usual end of life fridge soup, loosely based on a Covent Garden caramalised root vegetable recipe (because I have turnips in the fridge)…and a vague plan to stop at a Farm Shop on the way back from Banbury later today.

There is a problem with this however, as by and large I cook for a family and my family are not really into vegetables – although Spider is getting better – he ate the maple syrup parsnips (p383) I did with the roast beef.

My impressions on the book though are that it is beautifully written but not that it makes me want to get into the kitchen – this is not because Nigel hasn’t served up his usual selection of fabulous ideas but because everytime I read something part of me is thinking “oh so and so won’t eat that” – what is does make me want to do however is get out into the garden and plant things !

Current plans however involve the chapter on Sprouts (Husband oddly, does eat sprouts) and all the Soup recipes which are in season. The book is, unsurprisingly, rather short on cake recipes, and of the 3 there are I have already made 2 of them as they were previously published in the Observer – however in view of the drastic need to reduce calorie intake in this house, this lack is no bad thing…

But first I must finish off painting the kitchen, otherwise we will be living off pizza and cheese on toast for the next few days.

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Boiled Baby’s Head

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From time to time Husband will come back from the local Co op with a packet of short dated meat saying “I thought we might have such and such this week”. The packet will then sit there getting closer to the use by date until one of us finds the time, energy and enthusiasm to do something with it.

It is not, I must point out, always me. My Husband can cook,( in fact our relationship can be dated back to a lasagna in august 2002) but claims that he is limited in the kitchen. He says that his Mum made sure that both he and his brother had the very basics, the stuff that you need to survive on your own, because she knew she was not going to be around for long, but that she passed away before teaching him the other stuff, that its useful to know but you don’t really need, such as putting a sunday roast on the table.

I have complained here before about the unadventurous nature of my family’s palate, but here is the strange thing. Husband is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen… I have no way of telling whether he’s always been this way or whether 7 years of watching me being not afraid to mess things up in the kitchen, has led to him from time to time picking up one of my recipe books, but yes occasionally he will get an idea in his head and will follow it to see whether it works.

So then, at the end of last week Husband came home with a packet of meat and said “I thought we could have a snake and pygmy”. The meat sat there until monday when it fell to me to get a bit worried about the closeness of the use by date, so whilst making dinner I browned off the meat, fried some onions and bunged the mixture with the remains of an old bottle of port into the slow cooker. To tone down the sweetness of the port and because we had no Worcestershire sauce I bunged in some fish sauce and a load of soy sauce.

Next day I was in the process of heating it up and about to break it to Husband that today was the day he learned how to make short crust pastry when he turns round to me and says “no, I was thinking of doing it as a pudding not a pie. I want to do it like my Mum did, in a bain marie in the oven” At which point we decided to have something else for tea as I pointed out we wouldn’t be eating until long after 9pm as it would take so long to cook.

On Wednesday night however, having earlier put in a plea for iron rich food I find that Husband and Spider have together been making suet pastry and there was a Steak and Kidney pudding in the oven in a bain marie and a recipe book covered with floury handprints (after an hour we took it out and started steaming it on the stove as the oven method wasn’t working) – and you know what, it was stunning !

You should never be afraid of trying something new. You should never be afraid of failure. You are never too old to try…and if someone makes an effort for you because they want to make you smile, you should tell them how much you appreciate it.

Next week we celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary…it’s amazing where some pasta and a tomato based sauce can take you.n

Boiled Baby’s Head is a colloquial term, possibly from the west midlands for Steak and Kidney Pudding.

Gingerbread

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Yesterday was spent experimenting and recipe testing. At least that is what I was doing, Spider was enjoying making biscuits and playing with “dough”.

I have a copy of Gingerbread:Joanne Farrow from the library at the moment. It’s a book I’ve had before, by accident as when I’m choosing books Spider has a habit of grabbing things from the shelves and insisting that they are included in out borrowed items – Anyway I digress – I am still trying to plan christmas, food to buy and make, presents to make etc – I am not getting very far admittedly.

Anyway since this particular family is not very interested in the traditional christmas cake I thought I’d try out a few things before christmas and see what works…last weeks chocolate gingercake worked quite well, so that’s the route I’m thinking about at the moment…although since I want Spider to help with the cake I suspect we will be doing a christmas log.

We made part of the gingerbread street, because we wanted to play around with stained glass windows which are made by crushing up boiled sweets, placing in cut outs in the part cooked dough and then cooking for another 5 minutes. The recipe is meant to make 6-8 sets of houses but ours only made 3 as Spider wanted to make a gingerbread man and play with the cutters…

november 2009 012That was last night. It is currently 10am and there is none left, not even a crumb so I guess we can safely say that the basic golden gingerbread recipe from this book is a hit in this family (yes I know eating biscuits for breakfast shouldn’t be encouraged, but I don’t make a habit of it…) – as usually I played around with the recipe as I’m incapable of following something to the letter. This time though I simply replaced the caster sugar with brown sugar, as we have no caster sugar at the moment and lots and lots of different brown sugars – anyway, I think gingerbread tastes better with brown sugar, but that’s just a personal opinion.

Right off to the shops to buy ginger and golden syrup in bulk…I may be sometime

ps you are supposed to pipe chocolate around the doors and windows and add strips of chocolate but the temptation to consume was too strong and we didn’t get that far…

Dusting off the lunchbox

Been relatively quiet on these pages recently, not because we’re not cooking (we are, gotta eat, don’t do a lot of ready meals in this house) but because it’s hard to write about food when you are feeling sluggish and  feel like the back end of a horse – I am suffering from a body image problem, which I’m not going to talk anymore about as reading about dieting is about as boring as actually doing it.

We have been busy harvesting the free food of Warwickshire. Nothing too adventurous just the usual sort of jams and things – not like my brother who has been busy bottling sloe and apple jelly – don’t think that one is destined for toast, probably more of a savoury use like red currant jelly.

I’m hoping that the start of the school year and the need to make lunch on a daily basis for Spider, who is notoriously difficult to make sandwiches for (other than cheese) will spark off my interest in food again. We are also back on the watching our budget and not wasting anything regime…

I have been watching Economy Gastronomy recently, and like a lot of people have been amazed at the generosity of the “budget”, either we are miscalculating what we spend or we are already thriftier than average. I have not until this evening made anything from the book – however the co-op were selling 12 eggs at half price (otherwise I’d never have made a frittata with 8 eggs), we also had potatoes (red not new) and spring onions which needed using, always have chorizo and there was a tablespoon of clotted cream lurking in the fridge (to which I added some hot water and lemon juice as a sour cream substitute). It was OK, nothing special, perhaps it really needs the salsa they recommend with it, but it did use up the leftovers, served with some half price garlic bread AND there is still enough left fo r 2 lunches this week, as frittata is quite nice cold.

will link the recipe when they put it up on the BBC website

Economy Gastronomy: The Book

On Wednesday the neighbours surveyors report arrived, and quite frankly it was the same “being hit in the stomach” experience I’d had when I received the solicitors letter – how can anyone get things so wrong ?

I went round to see a neighbour to ask her if she knew any other neighbours who might have been here long enough to quote authoritatively on the boundaries and she said “glad you came round, I have a parcel for you” !

It was my copy of Economy Gastronomy that the wonderful Fairy Goth Mother had ordered for me… boy did that cheer me up !

Have only glanced at it so far as I’ve been rather shaken over the surveyors report and had to take a day off work on Thursday as I didn’t sleep on Wednesday night…ended up watching Tampopo at 3am in the morning and drinking tea.

Gastronomy Economy

Cooking in this house has been a bit routine and dreary of late. I haven’t had any desire to write about anything for awhile hence the relative inactivity on this blog. I have been a bit depressed too due to “events” which admittedly did have the strange effect of making me feel that I needed to buy a cookbook (Falling Cloudberries:Tessa Kiros, in case you were wondering – I didn’t as I can’t justify even spending £1 at the moment let alone £10 (on offer)).

The slugs eating my basil followed by a solicitors letter killed my desire the other week to make cake. I have to make something this weekend as its Teenager’s birthday, and we have friends visiting in the evening and I have promised there will be leftover cake. My current plan is one culled from Caribbean Food:Levi Roots which from reading the recipe appears to a combination of Nigel’s double ginger cake combined with the icing from Nigella’s ginger cake but using lime instead of lemon – now this really did get my taste buds waking up.

The other thing that has pricked my culinary interest is that Allegra McEvedy (ex Leon) and Paul Merret (his book about his allotment and cooking from it is currently on my bedside table – I got it for my birthday, it is a slow read for me, his literary style is not doing it for me) have a series coming out next Wednesday called Gastronomy Economy, there is also, surprise surprise a cookbook... if it stops raining I may do a car boot sale and treat myself with the proceeds.

An Omelette and a glass of wine (Chapter 2)

No, I haven’t suddenly gone all Elizabeth David on you, I have simply reached chapter 2 of Delia, and can’t at the moment face writing about chapter 1, besides am waiting for chapter 3 of Delia before I tackle the Eggs Benedict in chapter 1.


Anyway I have for most of this week been making omelettes. I started with the Spanish omelette or tortilla as that was closest to my usual omelette cooking (the infamous “hope omelette” made out of the leftovers in the fridge – as in “I hope this tastes ok”). The other reason for making this first is that we have some potatoes starting to chit!


This is probably not something I would do often as you have to keep coming back to it. I prefer cooking that is either over and done in 10 minutes or something you can leave in the oven and ignore – with this you have to slowly sweat the thinly sliced onions and potatoes for 20 minutes or so before mixing with the eggs and cooking slowly again for another 25 minutes, and then leave it to stand for 5 minutes – it was surprisingly nice for such simple ingredients – although next time I will sweat the onion mixture for longer.


Second night and it was back to the start of the chapter for a standard omelette – after reading and ignoring several pages about how to choose the perfect omelette pan (we have one, its non stick, it works, end of discussion). I have never made this sort of omelette before,(mine are more like pancake calzone), but they are surprisingly quick, surprisingly simple – not sure why people make such a fuss about them.  After making the standard recipe you can then add what you like to them – Delia has half a page of alternatives, which I am not going to do at this point, otherwise my family will be in revolt – I just made a plain one for me and a cheese one for Husband. There’s not a lot else to say about them except that yes Delia is spot on here with her method.


Tonight was a cheese souffle omelette for Husband and a mushroom frittata for me – the mushroom frittata wasn’t brilliantly successful as I halved the quantities (original serves 4) and I just used big field mushrooms rather than a mixture oh and red leicester rather than gruyere as that’s what we had in. The souffle omelette ? Was that a hit ? Question ? “how is it ?”, Husband’s answer (note, always ask people how the food it whilst they have something in their mouths, then all they can do is smile and nod) “It’s on-erful…”…when he’d recovered he did say that it “ticks every box for me”

So after Chapter 2 I would say there are 2 recipes that may become regulars, the souffle and a Tortilla…possibly won’t do the french omelette too often, its ok, but omelettes in this house are often a way of using up left overs so will stick with the “hope omelette”.

I Cheated

 I have flicked a few pages ahead in Delia – to be honest I was getting a bit bored of boiling eggs – and I know I can boil an egg (I am after all the inventor of the egg sandwich diet)… what I can’t do successfully is fry an egg.

Not being able to fry an egg isn’t a big hardship in this house as apart from the occasional fried egg sandwich or a plate of egg and chips (best with champagne !) we don’t eat them – I could therefore I guess claim lack of practice for my ineptitude, but no, I am just useless at frying eggs.

 Anyway, for last night’s tea we had all the ingredients for corn beef hash, so I decided to try and beat the frying voodoo – second attempt I should add, as I’d made both this and the Chorizo hash at Christmas when I’d first thought of “doing Delia”.

 Well, to cut a long story short, last night was not to be the night the hex was removed. Things were going well at the onion frying stage, I missed out the potato cooking as we already had 300g of cold potatoes in the fridge (fully cooked though), deciding to be a tidy cook I was putting the top back down on our very cheap bottle of rapeseed oil, when pushing slightly too hard the flimsy plastic bottle collapsed, shot off the surface spilling oil all over the surface, all over the floor and all over me.

Top Tip – don’t wear dry clean only skirt when cooking, make an effort and iron something else so that it’s not your only spare piece of clean clothing…aprons can’t protect you from everything.

After cleaning up the mess, I finished the hash, followed Delia’s instructions to the letter and still managed to make a mess of the fried eggs!

Moral of this story: Don’t try to cheat, the gods will always find you out and punish you in one way or the other…the good news is that oil does wash out of fry clean skirts with the assistance of Johnson’s baby shampoo…now I just have to find a way of ironing the creases out of the skirt without burning the material…

Doing Delia

 Conjures up horrible pictures that title. Hopefully however most of you reading this won’t have such a smutty mind as me and interpret it in the way it was meant.

I am in a good place mentally and as a result don’t have the urge to bake quite so much at the moment – also since Spider’s birthday there has been a lack of occasions in my diary requiring cake. I’m not cooking either as Husband, realising quite how knackered I am after the commute has taken charge of putting food on the table in the evening.

In fact I am in danger of becoming a non-cook…

I thought I’d better challenge myself to something, just to keep my hand in. I am therefore “doing Delia”…which correctly interpreted means that I shall be working my way through her “How to Cook” books 1 & 2…

I am not however going to report my progress for the first 10 pages as I’m sure the world does not need to know how I got on with “learning to boil an egg”…anyone got any Lime Pickle though or can suggest a substitute as her first proper recipe is a curry which uses that as one of its main ingredients…

Delia’s instructions for boiling an egg can be found here

The Queen of coloured goo

My fridge has been full of suspicious looking bowls of coloured goo for the last week or so. The family has been remarkably tolerant and have even eaten some of it.

The first was the sweet potato I mentioned last week. Purple as the ones I picked up turned out not to be orange fleshed. They were turned into falafel, which are ok, but not a patch on chickpea ones.

The second bowl was orange pulp…I mentioned to Husband that the last lot of clementines were going mouldy before getting ripe enough to peel. He immediately put in a request for Bitter Orange Muffins as he likes the smell of them boiling away on the stove – shame neither of us were able to smell it due to our colds.

The final bowl was another attempt at gnocchi.

I am worried that this blog may be turning into Appetite for Beetroot as, discovering a final forgotten beetroot in the veg drawer, I decided to attempt the Beetroot Gnocchi from Apples for Jam: Tessa Kiros.

I found 2 things out tonight, adding vegetables to gnocchi is not a talent of mine, they always turn out a bit suspect. The second thing is that although the idea of beetroot gnocchi is quite intriguing the reality of eating something quite so pink that is savory rather than sweet is really not to be recommended. It reminded Husband so much of uncooked meatballs that he just wasn’t able to finish them. If anyone fancies trying them then a very similar (identical ?) recipe can be found here – you do need to use more flour if you want to avoid a sticky mess, despite what she Tessa K says in the book.

No idea what they tasted like – I’ve lost my sense of taste as well as smell…