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…

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Food Hero: Hugh Fernley Whittingstall

I get a lot of hits on these pages from people looking for Hugh, and presumably his recipes. Guess they are disappointed to find that there’s only a brief mention of the food award he won last year from Radio 4’s Food Programme – oh and a link to his brownie recipe.

 

Hugh is actually one of my food heroes but I don’t own any of his books. I have been an admirer since back in his “Cook on the wild side” days as I love the idea of food for free.

 

When the River Cottage programmes started I became a full time groupie, I couldn’t get enough of his programmes – but oddly enough it was actually the ideas that he was promoting rather than what he was cooking which was getting me. In fact aside from the Beetroot Brownies I can’t think of a single recipe of his that I have actually been tempted to cook.

 

I am however deeply hooked on the idea of growing my own food and sourcing things more locally…I would love to keep a pig, but I think the neighbour might complain (although historically most of the back gardens down this road would have had a pig from time to time). The highlight for me of this year was the guys in Sheffield who collect unwanted fruit from trees planted by companies, the council or just in forgotten orchards.

 

As a presenter and a journalist I find him fascinating, his words both written and spoken sizzle with passion and enthusiasm but I really don’t know what happens when he puts pen to paper to produce a cook book. Hugh seems to loose all his zing and zip when bound between the hard covers of a cookbook – they really are dull dull dull. But then I am probably in a minority as I do actually read cookbooks from cover to cover rather than use them to cook from…I am reserving judgement though as I’ve only read 3 so far, maybe one of the others  will change my mind, not that it matters as if I need my fix there is always the web site.

B is for Beetroot…

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do this Mummy thing very well. Flapjack Queen does, she hardly ever shouts at her children (and she has 3 of them) or gets cross with them, she talks quietly and gently and reasons with them… I even have another friend in the village who is in my phonebook as “Supermum”. Me, well I’d like to think that at least some of the time my snappy mood is down to the fact that Spider is a very determined little boy (his Grandad describing the same trait in his daughter calls it stubborn !), he knows his own mind and has very strong views on how things can be done, but honestly I know that its mainly me who is at fault. Example, I am not a talker. My life is full of long silences, long periods where I am on my own (134 mile round trip commute) so to spend a day with someone who never stops talking and provides his own running commentary is a little bit hard to say the least !

Anyway, Spider is having an extra movie night tonight as a treat (Valiant and now Cars) and I have been in the kitchen trying to bake away my snappishness and ill temper – Bake your way to a better mummy…

So beetroot then ? Well I have just realised why most of the beetroot in this country is eaten pickled as it takes so bloomin’ long to cook.

I am in the process of cooking Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All’s Beetroot Brownie’s and I have made the classic mistake of not reading the recipe properly as it says use 250g of cooked beetroot. No problem I thought I’ll just cook it, won’t take long. Wrong – beetroot can be roasted in a moderate temp oven (200 deg C) for 1-2 hours or boiled/simmered for 1.5 -2 hours…if you have a pressure cooker then it takes about 20 minutes…so a energy saving recipe this is not ! Although you can buy pre peeled and cooked beetroot in most supermarkets.

I haven’t had much experience with beetroot before – I avoid it due to horrid memories of salads in the late 70’s early 80’s where it caused the cheese to go pink…Husband on the other hand adores pickled beetroot (hates most other pickles) so I usually put a jar in his stocking each Christmas.

Of the 3 times before I have cooked it only 1 was it a pleasurable experience, so I have no idea how these Brownies are going to turn out, fortunately I have chosen the one night of the year where it won’t really matter if I have to wait 3 hours before I can start cooking as I wasn’t planning on going to bed until after Jools (he IS new year…!).

The last 3 occasions just for the record were a chemistry project at the age of 13, making natural dyes I think – all I can remember is the beaker getting to hot, cracking and the bench being covered with hot purple liquid. Second was a recipe for borscht from the Cranks Entertaining book – didn’t like it, but I put that down to the texture as we couldn’t get it to puree smoothly. Last year I made a Beetroot cake which was gorgeous (apart from the linseed’s, but apparently I should have soaked them first).

Two last points about beetroot, it smells horrid when its cooking and even raw it stains everything…my kitchen (white shiny units) looks like a scene from psycho as it somehow has managed to get everywhere.

january-2009-061

Verdict: Turned out a little soggy which I put down to having boiled the beetroot instead of roasting it but were basically ok. Taste slightly less sweet than most of the others, occasionally there was the woody taste of beetroot but not often.

Cupboard clearing…

Haven’t been baking much the last 10 days as there is plenty to eat and I keep being given left overs from people I know.

Started sorting the cupboards out last night, doing a stock keep of what I have and what needs using up, other than the obvious stuff in the fridge…

Still feeling run down so trying out a “tonic” rather than copious cups of tea as I still have some ginger left from my cold cures and I discovered some forgotten lemon grass in the freezer, which if I was in the mood I could turn into a Thai curry (as there are 2 tins of coconut milk lurking with the rice pud) but I am not in the mood…although there are still loads of goose bits in the fridge…and I wonder if the co op sells corriander…

Anyway rather than the curry I haven’t made here is the tonic (makes 4 cups, I’ve only made 1 as I may use the rest of the lemon grass on something else)

Lemon grass and Ginger Tea (Cook at Home with: Peter Gordon)

2 stems lemon grass bashed flat with a hammer or rolling pin

100g ginger skin scrubbed and roughly chopped

1 litre cold water

sugar, elderflower cordial or honey to taste

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat, out the lid on and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain before drinking.

lemongrass tea - a break for the liver

lemongrass tea - a break for the liver

ps ooooh, whilst rooting around in the veg drawer for the ginger I found the beetroot I bought just before christmas to do Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s Beetroot Brownies, so I may do one last baking session before new year…

verdict on the tonic: Well I feel invigorated, the ginger was a bit strong for my taste, but perhaps its less intense if you drink it hotter, mine was a bit on the cool side as just as I made it, Spider dragged me off to show me a 3 he had just found – we’ve been playing a number recognition reward game, if he correctly names a number then he gets a small toy as a reward…it probably would be cheaper with sweets…!

My crimes against cooking: Allegations of Bad taste

Woke up in a bit of a grump this morning. The Toddler came into our room at an early hour demanding company and then started accusing me of waking him up ! So to cheer myself up on the journey into work I started remembering past times in the kitchen – but got distracted by memories of culinary experiments, some of which were quite funny, which at least made me giggle and got me into a better mood.

As mentioned I do have Form for slightly eccentric cooking. Show me a recipe with unusual ingredients and I find it hard to resist the temptation to try it.

The charge sheet

Minty Pea Pops (from The Toddler Cafe) – these are meant to be ice lollies made of cream cheese, chocolate drops, pureed peas and peppermint essence. These were not a success, the Teenager now, after having experienced these, asks me everytime I offer him cake or something he hasn’t tried before asks “It hasn’t got peas in it has it ?”. Toddler was not impressed either, and he loves peas. I tell myself that his rejection was based on his dislike of mint (insists on strawberry or banana toothpaste, boy will he have problems cleaning his teeth when he’s older)

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow from Feast (Nigella Lawson) This is just cooked sweet potato, with some lime juice baked with a layer of mini marshmallow across the top which gets kinda baked and caramalised and slightly toasted. Having thought that this was the sort of thing that both Toddlers and Teenagers couldn’t get enough of it turned out that neither of them would touch it.

Creamy Carrots –(Apples for Jam – Tessa Kiros) sounds innocent enough but it was not appreciated in this house. My fault, I didn’t have any parsley so I used tarragon. But to be quite honest I think carrots are nice enough without adding cream, you just need butter and black pepper.

Beetroot Cake This one worked, as long as I didn’t tell anyone what was it it before they tried it. I guess it’s the same principle as carrot cake, but because in the UK beetroot is usually eaten soaked in vinegar, its difficult to overcome people’s fears and get them to try it. It came from Nigel Slater’s Observer column and I carried the newscutting around for several months before I did it, fresh beetroot is not something it is easy to find in the shops out of season (because there’s no demand for it), so I guess this cake wins on the food miles stakes too. It was too tempting to resist as it also had orange blossom essence in it, so how could I not make it ? The thing that I don’t like about it is the linseeds, but that’s just me. I don’t like the sensation of small hard seeds in my teeth so no dried figs in my christmas pud ! If I did it again I’d just up the amount of sunflower and pumpkin and leave out the linseed.

There are no doubt many many more crimes and I’m sure that if the Toddler could read, or I pointed the Teenager at this site they would remind me of many more eccentric mixtures I’ve tried out on them. But these are the ones that I can remember over the past 2 years, and besides sometimes the journey to work is only 15 minutes long.