Random Act of Cookery

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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…

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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

Fin de siecle

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I love my job. No I mean I really really LOVE my job…I love what I do, I love being a lawyer, I love the area of work I deal with and I really love the fact I never know what the day will hold.  It also helps that I have fabulous colleagues and my internal clients are wonderful too…it really makes a difference to know that most of us believe that what we do is making a difference – ok the outside world might not share our view, but mostly we do it because in one way or another we believe we can help.

I’m lucky. I know I am. I have had 10 years doing something that makes me happy…and I suspect I would fail to count more than 6 people that I know who are in this same position.

BUT…it’s unlikely that things will continue in this manner, because I’m a public servant and life as I know it will change and even if I still have a job this time next year it is unlikely to be the one I know and love as even if I stay with the same organisation it is likely that we will have been restructured…so tonight I am raising a glass of champagne to the life I’ve had and tomorrow I will face change with hope for what is to come, hope that I can make something positive out of it.

Tonight there is cake. Fin de Siecle cake – also known in this house as Leftover Chocolate Cake as the recipe changes depending on what chocolate and nuts there are left in the house  – this one is made with chili chocolate, coffee and walnuts…and it’s fabulous, and if they are lucky then my fabulous colleagues might get to share what is left tomorrow because I think we all need a bit of cheering up this week.

Appetite for Noise

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Kitchen still in a state of chaos. Cooking has been happening but we’ve mostly been using up leftovers and trying to use up things in the fridge before they go off. We have been eating well this week as a result and most meals have been planned (although not yet got around to writing a menu plan, just announce at the beginning of the week what we are happening…hi light of the week was Husband’s lasagna and an unseasonal cream tea on thursday… Anyway here’s something we did much much earlier (november 2008 I think)

Favourite Cake ?

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I started making a christmas cake at the start of the week. I wasn’t going to, as the “traditional” christmas cake doesn’t play very well in this house, or at my parents. However the sainsbury’s magazine had a yule log on the front and a “mulled wine fruit cake” which apparently freezes well, and I quite liked the idea of having a fruit cake in the freezer ready to go if needed….

It was too early in the month to do the yule log, that’s a “cooking with children” activity for when the school holidays start, but since we had a jar of mincemeat in the cupboard not used last year, and some wine left over from the night before (plus some port lurking in the kitchen somewhere) the mulled wine cake was calling out to be done. BUT, this week has been one of trips to London and illness and being just too damned tired…so after getting as far as melting the butter, adding sugar, warming the alcohol and adding sultanas, I stopped, and stayed stopped.

The cake in fact has been in the fridge for a week now waiting for me to finish it off, and although I will (because not too would be a waste) my heart really isn’t in it – if you are to make cake then I think it has to be something you want to make… and this isn’t.

So the yule log is yet to come. I’ve also promised French Frank I would do him a fruit cake (if he remembers to send me his current address) but I’m open to suggestions as to what cake to do for Christmas that doesn’t involve icing, marzipan and alcohol soaked fruits…preferably something that is not going to still be there in February waiting to be eaten.

Necessity is…

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…the mother of invention – apparently.

There was no real necessity for me to use ginger ale in the stew – It’s just I hate to waste a thing if I can avoid it and I didn’t see any prospect of anyone else in the house drinking the ginger ale (left over from the birthday cake) in the next week or so (although at the time I had forgotten about the bottle of lime vodka in the freezer…).

But there I was with stewing steak desperately needing to be cooked before it went off. A bag of ready cut stewing veg bought cheap in Asda not used when originally planned and looking sorry for itself, plus the remains of the veg drawer… what I lacked though was leftover wine or beer or anything that might give me an interesting variation on a standard beef stew…so I poured the ginger ale into it and added a stock cube (some lemon, more ginger, garlic and a cinnamon stick), boiled it up and left it in the slow cooker overnight.

It was…interesting. OK it wasn’t bad, but there was a background sweetness which would have been unbearable after a few mouthfuls if it hadn’t been for Husband’s fabulous fluffy dumplings (recipe on back of Atora packet) and some last minute chunks of potato… Cheap and green – not as green as the meat and veg would have been if I’d left it any longer !

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

Note to self: Don’t rub your eye after cutting chilli

I have been working my way through a large selection of plums recently thanks to some heavy duty raiding of hedge rows etc. These cooking sessions are waiting to be posted but are currently suffering from “silly cow disease” which in this instance manifests itself in forgetting to put the card back into my digital camera which means I can’t get the pics of the camera until I’ve found the camera lead – and I do like to include the occasional picture on Appetite for Cake.

In addition to copious amounts of plums we have had a busy weekend entertaining as we were visited by a couple of lovely Australians, who weren’t really Australians but have lived out there since 1976 (Husband’s cousin and her husband) – they can come again anytime, especially as they washed up before they left this morning.

Had been planning on emptying the leftovers in the fridge into a pie dish and covering it with pastry, but Husband had already got dinner under control (pasta and odds and ends of cheese) however there was still time to do a curry for lunch for the rest of the week.

This curry again is based on the things in the fridge that needed to be used up, plus a few store cupboard items.

Prior to the phone call on friday from Husband’s cousin asking if they could drop in over the weekend I had rescued some duck legs from the bottom of the freezer and was all geared up to stick them in the slow cooker. As they had now been defrosted several days cooking them was becoming rather a priority. I also had some elderly garlic, a sorry for itself thumb of ginger, part of a red chilli and an onion. In the cupboard there was a tin of coconut milk which had been there for rather some time…in fact all the ingredients for Peter Gordon’s Duck Curry with Pickled Plums -which is currently slowly cooking in the top oven.

The remaining plums unfortunately were a bit too ripe to be pickled so I have improvised with a plum compot (based on seasonal compot from Leon cookbook) but with the seasonings from the pickled plums (star anise, cinnamon stick and lemon zest instead of lemon grass). The remaining coconut milk I’ve mixed with some frozen rice.

I will report back tomorrow, as its going to be my lunch, Husband does not eat curry, duck and possibly not coconut milk…it is smelling “interesting”

Incidentally the recipe is meant for 6, I divided mine by 3….

And, despite knowing from past experience what can happen after you have been cutting chilli I rubbed my eyes whilst putting Spider to bed…I have however learned from past experience, usually its my nose I rub !

Spag Bol

I made Spaghetti Bolognaise on Friday night, it’s the same recipe I’ve used for years (but these days without the mushrooms) I learned it from my Mum, probably one of the first more complicated things I made – the best bolognaise I ever tasted is the one from Kitchen Diaries:Nigel Slater but I wasn’t in the mood for following a recipe, I just wanted something comforting and routine.

I made it partly to make amends and partly to calm me down and get my head straight as I’d just thrown my toys out the pram. I behaved appallingly but I am not apologetic for it, sometimes I think it needs to be done. I don’t make a fuss as a rule and sometimes when you don’t make a fuss you can get overlooked.

Things had kinda come to a head on Friday evening. I was finally getting fed up of the neighbours treating our garden as a thoroughfare because we had no fences up, I’d shouted at one of the neighbours visiting children the previous day because he’d ignored me when I’d told him not to go in our garden to get his ball, and that he should be asking me if I could get it for him – can’t remember what I said aside from emphasising that the garden was dangerous.

Anyway I insisted to the family that this weekend that we were sorting out the backgarden. Not sure how the Student got involved as we hadn’t actually asked him to help out but he started getting arsey about the fact I wanted to do it this weekend and how it was messing up his arrangements as he had to be in Rugby tomorrow to “see his boss about holiday work” and then he phoned someone and started slagging us off on the phone whilst we were in earshot about how the “people here keep changing their plans, and the plans are changing by the minute etc etc”. So I sort of told him that as far as I was concerned he could go home now, this minute, that I didn’t want him here and that his “attitude stank” and I’d rather a willing volunteer than someone who felt pressganged.

I suspect that Student thinks his Stepmother has an irrational hatred of him, no I have a very rational dislike, based on the fact that he is an arrogant knowitall who hasn’t the human social skills to realise that talking about someone in front of them, implying that they were too stupid to plan ahead might perhaps annoy them a little ! A dislike which is intensified by the fact that the very thing he is accusing us of is one of his biggest character flaws – he doesn’t think ahead and he expects us to change our plans to fit in with him – well sorry Student, but you are 20 now, you are an adult, start using your brain, start planning and start realising that other people (parents and such like) have lives too !

Poor Husband I think is feeling a bit bruised as he probably had to put up with Student sounding off in the car as he was taken back to Rugby…and was then probably worring that I’d give him an earbashing when he got home – nope, just Spag Bol !

The Spag Bol made an appearance the next day too, mixed with veg and hidden under mashed potato as a cottage pie.

I’ve also tried to make amends concerning the current state of the house – its tidier than it has been for weeks – well since I went on strike following the mess the house got in when Husband and Student came back from Le Mans – and ruined the hard work I’d put in to finding a place for everything in the 6 days they were both out of the house.

Tomorrow I may even clean the goldfish out…

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”.

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…