15 May 2017

Travelling with my Sourdough

I don’t know if anyone noticed but I haven’t written a blog post for about 2 months, my apologies. I have several varied reasons amongst which are ...

~   I have been a bit of slacker, 
~   Taking long walks in bluebell woods,

Cornish bluebells

~   My favourite reason – we have been travelling around visiting friends and family for a few weeks. It was so good to catch up with everyone but particularly exciting to meet my new great niece Amelia - she's lovely, incidentally!

Actually, all my nieces are lovely but Amelia is the first child of the next generation in our family and we are all delighted.

Have Sourdough will Travel

As we were away for a few weeks I took my sourdough starter with me, keeping it in a cool box on the road, taking up room in everyone’s fridges, feeding it and sharing out a bit here and there. I brought it home in perfect health (whilst the stuff I had left in the fridge to see how it got on had, sadly, not survived and had made a helluva pong!).

I have been making sourdough bread ever since my friend Carol gave me half of her sourdough starter over 18 months ago but, after a while, had stopped feeding it between loaves.  It seemed so wasteful throwing out half the dough every day, so I just fed the remaining starter when I split it to make a loaf.

sourdough mother

The bread turns out fine, indeed more than fine, but I’ve decided to return to feeding it on a daily basis, at least for a while, so that I can play with the other half rather than discarding it.

homemade sourdough bread

I have already made sourdough pizza which worked well but now want to branch out somewhat  – so hopefully I will stop being a slacker and write again soon with my results.

sourdough pizza base

See you later!

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19 March 2017

Delicious Ways to Sneak in those Ten A Day

I was somewhat discombobulated recently to hear that the recommended 5 portions of fruit or veg a day had been doubled.  As a portion is considered to be 80g that makes 800g and I’m not sure I eat that weight of food altogether in a day! 

Nevertheless, I had a look into it and found that eating ten portions of fruit and veg daily is more achievable than I first thought.  I learned the following …

~   Whilst potatoes apparently don’t count (surprise!) sweet potatoes do and as they are so delicious I eat quite a lot of these already.
~   Beans and pulses count but, oddly enough, no matter how many you eat they only count as one portion.  Presumably this is one per day and not one for your whole life!!!
~   Tinned fruit and veg count.
~   Just 30g of dried fruit is considered a portion – probably get that much in a slice of fruit cake!
~   Fruit and vegetables in ready made bought in foods also count.
~   Mushrooms are in!
~   Tomato sauces (I’m not talking ketchup – I don’t think) are a portion.
~   Vegetable soup is a good source of veg goodness whether homemade, chilled readymade or tinned.

This being the case here are some ways that should help you meet the new requirements without really noticing!


If you are getting your fix via soup then making homemade is surely the way to go – see here for a Seriously Useful Soup Recipe with lots of variations. 

Hummus and Other Bean Dips 


White Fish with Beans and Chorizo 

This is one of may favourite dinners, the recipe for my beany fish stew is here.

Roasted Cauliflower “Steak” 


See here for how to roast cauliflower plus several other cauliflower recipes and ideas.


A 150ml glass of real fruit juice equals one of your daily portions but how about having a fruit sorbet too?  Here is a recipe for Blackberry Sorbet  – it does a have modicum of vodka in it but nowhere does it say you have to give up alcohol to take your ten a day!


Roasted Sweet Potato, Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Ice Cream

The recipe for this plus recipes and ideas for other Savoury, Interesting & Peculiar Ice Creams is here. 

Fartes de Batatas

These are little sweet gooey cakes or sweeties from Portugal. Their name means something like “Potatoes that Satiate”, what did you think it meant?

170g caster sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 egg
15g soft butter
170g cooked, mashed and cooled sweet potato
(slightly warm the sweet potato before removing from its skin and mashing.)
70g ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 orange
a squeeze of lemon or orange juice
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

~   Whisk together the first three ingredients very well indeed till light and fluffy.
~   Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, ground almonds, citrus zest and juice.
~   Scrape the mixture into a pan and stir over medium heat to dry out; when the texture of stiff mashed potato spread onto a floured board to cool.
~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Roll into walnut sized balls then flatten into little cakes.
~   Place on a greased baking tray, brush with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.
~   Bake for about 20 minutes till slightly puffed up, golden and fragrant
~   Cool on a rack and serve with coffee.


So go on - get some of the good stuff down you!

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24 February 2017

Why would you eat Pancakes? (and other questions)

Recently I have been spending some time on Quora, I don’t intend to but it’s addictive.

I joined Quora to research things and to maybe sometimes answer questions. When I signed up I said I could answer questions on food, cooking, recipes, leftovers, ice cream and the British Virgin Islands. Now I can’t leave it alone, mainly because of the utterly weird and delightful questions people ask.

But before we get into the funny stuff I recently answered this question …

Why would you eat pancakes?

Well apart from the fact that, made properly, they are delicious, here are 7 good reasons …

1.   Quick and Easy – that’s two points really. It takes literally a minute or two to whisk up the batter and only a few minutes to cook a batch.

2.   Cheap - probably 40p-60p per batch depending on which pancakes you make.


3.   Super Flexible – sweet, savoury, thick, thin etc. See How to Make All Sorts of Pancakes for Pancake Day for how to make crèpes, gluten free galettes, thick fluffy American style pancakes and how to use different liquids, fillings etc. 


4.  Pancakes are (almost) infinitely variable lots of topping ideas for pancakes here.


5.   You can use all sorts of leftovers in pancakes. Shrove Tuesday was/is the day when all the goodies in the pantry, such as eggs, were eaten up before fasting for Lent. Read more about Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day here.  Pancakes were a great way of using up all the leftovers – and they still are. You can add pretty well anything you like and if they won’t actually form part of the pancake then add as a filling – as I did with these Scallop and Leek pancakes

6.   Suitable, in various forms, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and side dishes.

7.   You can even make a cake out of pancakes

So, that was my answer, someone else put …

Simply because it will annoy, upset, and anger members of the International Coalition of Anonymous People Who Judge Others’ Choices.

This answer went on, quite amusingly, at some length but must have angered some members of the aforementioned coalition; it was removed by the administrators!

Other questions that have been asked on Quora ...

What if any person's shoes you touched turned to cheese, would you eat those shoes?

Did Jesus like bananas?

And ...

Is it unethical to eat vegetables when they are unripe? I mean as in being below the age of vegetable-puberty. What if the vegetable really wants to be eaten?

I also enjoy the excellent answers sometimes given, for instance to this question ...

Can I eat banana in the morning?

To which someone replied …

This might come as a surprise but in fact you eat anything you want in the morning. It's really possible, try it. Just as long as you believe in yourself, you'll be able to do it! Don't give up, keep working to get that banana down your throat!

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13 February 2017

Cooking for Beginners - I'm trying to help!

I have written before on how important it is to learn to cook  but recently, due to joining a Faceboook group on cooking, I have been amazed to read how very little some people seem to know about the utterly basic skills of cooking and how little food knowledge they have. 

Some say that this is because cooking is no longer taught in schools (is that true?) and some say it is because mothers now go out to work and no longer cook at home so do not pass on what they learnt from their Mums. Here is how I learned to cook  – and it is thanks to my Mum, but not in the usual way!

This is such a sad loss to people that I’ve decided to go into more detail in the hope that I might be able to help or at least encourage people to give it a try. Please believe me, learning to cook is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.

7 Excellent Reasons to Learn to Cook …

1.   You will save money

Bought in food is so much more expensive than making your own! Here are two examples but I could go on (and on and on!).

Yorkshire Puddings – six ready-made Yorkshire puddings cost about £1.70 in Tesco but see here for how to make six lovely Yorkshire puddings for only 26½p! Not only that; mixing the batter takes literally two minutes, maybe less! 

Croutons – these are about 75p an ounce in Tesco and contain all these things!!!

See here for how to make all sorts of delicious croutons using different breads, oils, seasonings and additions from scraps of bread you might otherwise throw away.  Lots of ideas for using them too!  Say a loaf of standard white bread costs £1 for 800g that means the croutons costs approximately 3½p an ounce.  Actually, this simple idea is so good it may qualify as a genius recipe – see below! ***

2.   You will save time.

It might seem that having take-out is a quick way to get a meal but really, if you have had the presence of mind to think ahead a little and have the ingredients, making a burger, for instance, at home is so much quicker than driving to, parking outside and queuing in a take away and then driving home. Not only that, your food is fresh from the stove so in prime condition.  Read more here, including how to make the perfect burger.

3.   You can eat “cleanly”

I recently enjoyed watching Clean Eating's Dirty Secrets on the Beeb presented by Grace Victory which was about extreme and sometimes ill-informed advice on “healthy” eating to lose weight etc. I am not proposing that my readers do anything extreme such as go gluten free (apparently only about 1% of the population are gluten intolerant) or give up carbs or protein unless medically advised to do so. See what you think ... 

What I mean by eating “cleanly”, however,  is that by cooking at home you can avoid things that might be seriously bad for you. See, as an example, the ingredients in bought in croutons pictured above.

Even if bought in foods don’t contain any chemicals, e-numbers,  etc. they may still be high in salt, sugar and/or fat.  When you make your own you know exactly what is in your food.

4.   Personalise your food 

Make it is exactly how you and your family like it. My real man and I both love eating but eat very differently.  I like spices and garlic and all sorts of delicious stuff (have you tried black garlic, for instance, it is wonderful) he doesn’t even like pepper! I seriously believe he is a super taster – find out if you are a supertaster here – so even if we do have basically the same meal I will make adjustments. For instance, when he has steak and chips I might have Peppered Steak Salad with Two Dressings!    That way we are both happy.

If you are a supertaster don't get too excited! John Hayes, professor of food science at Penn State University, does warn …

It's not a superpower, you don't get a cape and it doesn't
make you better than other people

5.   Treat your loved ones

Related to above, if you can cook and want to spoil someone then you can make them their absolutely favouritest meal ever!

6.   Pass on this apparently dying skill – teach your kids, it seems no-one else will!

7.   Stay happy – I have read that eating fast food can make people depressed and not just because it is not quite what they wanted! 

As I say on all my social media ...


Learn some Essential Cooking Skills

Here are some important ones, I have more but don’t want this post to get out of hand! I am gradually archiving my Sudden Lunch posts on Flipboard here so take a look, or several looks as I keep on adding things!


Knife skills

You will be gobsmacked how much being able to use a knife properly speeds up food preparation. This is how to hold a knife.

To learn some knife skills watch this ...

... or if you’d rather read about it than watch a video then see here.


How to brown meat – and why you should!

The reason it is important to brown meat before braising, stewing or whatever, is that the searing of the meat causes a reaction (known as the maillard reaction, if you’re interested) which creates great flavour!  Read all about how to brown meat properly here. 


How to cook eggs

There's lots of information on cooking eggs here including important and surprising stuff about how to store eggs!

You might like to read my post 12 Commandments of Cooking Well and also see my book of cooking tips mentioned at the end of this post.

Useful “Genius” Recipes ***

I’ve written about these all over the place but they are such a boon to home cooking I am going to mention them again.  Basically, what I call a genius recipe is a simple basic recipe with the potential to be varied ad infinitum, limited only by your ingredients and imagination.  These are truly useful and genius  – read more about genius recipes here

A Well Stocked Storecupboard

It’s no good picking up a bargain or a wonderful find, being inspired and then not having the wherewithal! A well-stocked storecupboard (and fridge) allows you to be spontaneous and creative.

I can’t tell you what, exactly, you need to keep in stock, other than the basics such as salt and pepper and flour and sugar, cooking oil, onions etc.; it all depends on what you and yours enjoy eating.  But once you know your preferences start gradually stocking up.

Further help with Cooking

The internet (including this blog) is awash with recipes – choose something simple from a reliable site such as the BBC  (or this blog!) and follow it exactly, to the letter. When you are confident maybe try adding a pinch of this or a little of that (except in the case of baking which is a chemical reaction, don’t mess with those recipes).  Try another recipe and so on.

In the sidebar of this blog you will find a section Useful Foodie (and drinkie!) Links where you can find links to all sort of useful information.

I have written a kitchen "hacks" book in which I give over 500 useful ideas, methods, hints, tips and tricks I have learned or come to realise. They are all ways of making cooking quicker and/or easier and/or more effective and/or more delicious, additionally they will probably help you save money and eat more healthily. 

You will be glad to know I have not included any of the silly hacks one sees on the web – read about some of these here but don’t bother trying any of them! 

If you would like to hear more from me (as you can tell I am very interesting) please sign up at the top of the page to receive Sudden Lunch! straight into your inbox and please like my Facebook page, it is appropriately named Learn to Cook!

Happy Cooking!

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4 February 2017

Aphrodisiacs Quiz for Valentine's Day and beyond!

Don’t worry if you haven’t read it, you can do that later!
which nut is an aphrodisiac
1.  Which nut did the writer Colette spurn because she thought that “they add weight to the breasts”?

     ~   Brazil nuts
     ~   Almonds
     ~   Cobnuts
     ~   Walnuts

2.  What do Hindus traditionally leave on the doorstep to indicates that a marriage is about to take place?

     ~   A handful of rice
     ~   A banana
     ~   A jar of honey
     ~   A coconut

3.  And which food do the Amish traditionally associate with weddings?

     ~   Carrots
     ~   Sauerkraut
     ~   Celery
     ~   Candy

4. What did Casanova say could “restore an old love and … ripen a young one.”?

~  Champagne
~  Cheese
~  Chocolate
~  Something else starting with


5.  Who wrote a long, strange and rather naughty Poem called “Figs”?

~  Philip Larkin
~  Oscar Wilde
~  D.H. Lawrence
~  Allen Ginsberg

ginger root

6.  Ginger derives its name from a Sanskrit word, srngaveram, meaning …

~  Healing root
~  Horn-shaped
~  Tickling stick
~  Sweet heat


7.  Who said “If you have no Honey in your Pot, have some in your Mouth.”?

~   Benjamin Franklin
~   Mark Twain
~   Walt Whitman
~   Henry David Thoreau

8. Which of these is NOT considered to have aphrodisiac qualities?

     ~  Baboon urine
     ~  Horny goat weed
     ~  Stinky toe
     ~  Spanish fly

vanilla for impotence

9. What is held to be the ideal length for a vanilla pod?

~  The longer the better
~  A good 6 inches
~  11cm
~  125mm

10. What fruit was known by the Aztecs as the Testicle Tree, in their own language of course — ahuacacuauhitl?

     ~   Granadilla
     ~   Papaya
     ~   Avocado
     ~   Soursop

11. Which herb in Italy is known as “bacia-nicola” which means “kiss me Nicholas”?

~   Oregano
~   Marjoram
~   Sage
~   Basil

12. Which food did the Talmud say that people, “even women”, should eat on the Sabbath, because it “promotes love and arouses desire”?

~   Roast Chicken
~   Gefilte Fish
~   Garlic
~   Locusts

 Wait - you're not cheating are you?

Oh - before we get to the answers here's a picture of my aforementioned book!  It's only 99p and includes ...

~     The most 17 most convincing (at least to me) aphrodisiac foods
~     Some background on each one
~     46 recipes plus other delicious ideas of what to do with them
~     A little bit about their nutritional benefits
~     A brief mention of other, seemingly lesser, aphrodisiacs
~     One or two possibly suggestive food photos
~     Some rude comments and, of course,
~     Double entendres.

This book is perfect for those who agree with Gael Greene who said ...

"Great food is like great sex.  The more you have the more you want."

OK - here they are!

1.   Almonds
2.   Banana
3.   Celery
4.   Cheese
5.   D.H. Lawrence – read the poem here
6.   Horn shaped
7.   Benjamin Franklin
8.   6 inches
9.   Stinky toe – more about this here
10. Avocado
11. Basil
12. Garlic

How did you do?

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