28 February 2012

The Versatile Blogger - my Nominations

You may have read yesterday that Jenny of Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger has very kindly nominated me (me!) for a Versatile Blogger Award for which heartfelt thanks.  It now behooves me to nominate blogs that I feel deserve this award and these are my choices, in no particular order …

Eggs on the Roof … sharing food, books, ideas http://eggsontheroof.com/

Food and books, a perfect combination.  Charlie Lee-Potter, the writer and journalist lady who writes this blog, and I seem to have very similar interests; Karen Blixen, black garlic, cheese, Julian Barnes and chocolate to name a few although I admit chocolate’s not that much of a coincidence.

Ideas in Food - http://blog.ideasinfood.com/ - as it says, ideas in food but Really Interesting Ones!

Feasts and Festivals http://feastsandfestivals.blogspot.com/  Interesting history and food blog with lots of snippets, photos and trivia plus great recipes.

My Man’s Belly - http://feastsandfestivals.blogspot.com/  Unusual combination of recipes and relationship advice!

As the bloggist of this site, Alyson Thomas, says “Like meat? Like sections? Then you've come to the right place.”  Great diagrams of the “meat sections” of all sorts of things – some of them meat! 

Andrea Joseph’s Sketchblog - http://andreajoseph24.blogspot.com/

Absolutely gorgeous sketches by a very talented artist; I wish I could do this!  See also …

Book on a Bloghttp://bookonablog.blogspot.com/ by the same blogger.

Dietlind Wolf - http://dietlindwolf.blogspot.com/ - this lady makes collections of things, arranges them and takes pictures, to stunning effect!  A lot of her work is food related.

Island Vittles - http://islandvittles.com/ - interesting recipes and evocative pictures of life on a small island in British Columbia.

Fuss Free Flavours - http://fussfreeflavours.com/ - recipes, ingredients, book reviews and giveaways.

Sweet Paul - http://sweetpaul.typepad.com/my_weblog/ - just gorgeous, words fail me!

La Tartine Gourmande - http://www.latartinegourmande.com/ - beautiful food photography.

Canelle et Vanille - http://www.cannellevanille.com/ - more beautiful food photography.

I want to be like the above 3 blogs when I grow up.

Apparently one of the rules of belonging to this prestigious group of bloggers is that I tell you ...

7 random things about me!  Umm …

                     I usually have a brandy at bedtime.  It was not until I took this photo that I realised the bottle has both"mm" and "oo" embossed on it ~ my thoughts exactly.

                     I can’t swim and am scared of water yet lived on a boat for years and had to row home alone at night.
                     I am writing a book about leftovers and have an agent!!  Fingers crossed it will be published.  OK, that wasn't entirely random.
                     I’m really glad I’ve been a chef all my working life but think I might have liked being a photographer too.
                     I live with a Geordie.
                     I once nearly understood something Brian Cox was explaining.  How can I be so very interested in something so beyond me?
                     I have a travelled all over the place but because of Things Going Wrong (boat sinking, computer committing suicide, husband leaving and taking pics with him etc.) have lost all the photos.  I have been to lots of places, though, honestly!

Now I have made my nominations I am off to the Versatile Blogger site to see what other wonderful blogs I can discover (perhaps I’ll do some work tomorrow!)

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27 February 2012

Leftovers are my Favourite Ingredient.

I've had a humdinger of a day, so far, with the old leftovers – I’m getting quite good at this, at least I think so!

A couple of days ago I was a bit over-enthusiastic in the dumplings department when making my darling’s traditional weekly Mince & Dumplings.  He could only manage 10 (what a wimp) which left 4.  He was therefore served them this morning for breakfast; cut in half and fried with bacon and an egg.  He liked it, I knew he would.

Yesterday the very same darling had roast pork with all the trimmings (which for him includes Yorkshire Pudding and Sloppy, aka Mushy, Peas).  The smallest amount of Yorkshire batter I can reasonably make, using 1 egg and a tablespoon of flour, makes 6 puds so I had 3 for breakfast with butter and maple syrup.  I liked that.

If you are feeling a bit on the poor side I heartily recommend making Yorkshire Puddings – they are quick and easy, delicious and versatile and make loads of food for so very little money – see here for my recipe which always works for me.  

Last night I couldn’t eat all my salmon so finished it at lunch in a salad.  I love M & S’s Roasted Garlic Mayo and was gutted to find the jar virtually empty.  However I calmed down, took a few deep breaths and employed a cunning ruse;  I made lemon vinaigrette in the jar, gave it a good shake et voila – a lovely creamy, garlicy, lemony, peppery etc. salad dressing.  

In other news I am proud to have been nominated by Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger as a Versatile Blogger  - thank you loads, Jenny.

It is now my happy task to nominate 15 bloggers who I think are both excellent and versatile.  This seems to be an exciting concept which I am glad to be a part of and I want to get right so over the next day or two I shall be getting my act together and will let you know.

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25 February 2012

THE Best Way to Cook Onions!

This is the way I most often cook onions; it concentrates the flavour and makes them sweet and very tender.  I believe my proficiency in this department has helped a lot in my professional life and also, perhaps, in my personal life, if you believe the old adage about the way to man’s heart being through his stomach.

med/large onions – about 250g ea
15 g butter OR 1 tablespoon of olive oil (healthier and still delicious) per onion
pinch of salt

~    Peel the onions, halve them lengthways and thinly slice into half moons.

~    Heat the butter or oil in a small pan with a lid and toss and separate the sliced onions in the fat to coat.
~    Sprinkle with a little salt.
~    Press something appropriate (a piece of foil, a piece of baking parchment, greaseproof paper or a butter wrapper) directly onto the onions to cover completely.  Try not to burn yourself on the side of the pan.
~    Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot.   The onions should not so much fry in the butter as gently steam in it.
~    Cook slowly until the onions are soft enough to cut with the edge of a wooden spoon.  You can stir once or twice during this time - they will take about 30 minutes.

They are now melty and delicious and quite sweet too because of the natural sugars in the onions.  To enhance this sweetness a little more, when the onions are completely soft, take off the lid, turn up the heat and cook on high for a few minutes stirring constantly until the onions begin to caramelise and just start sticking on the bottom of the pan. 

These can now be used without further ado to enhance many simple dishes – add to sandwiches, burgers, steaks etc. etc. and can also be used as the basis of lots of other dishes such as Luxurious yet Traditional Bread Sauce.  They keep well in the fridge for a couple of days and are a useful standby so don’t worry about making too many.

My sister Maggie (now of the lovely Art Café and Cake Hole) and I used to call this method “soubising”, I think "soubise" is a real word, possibly French and it’s even possible that it may have something to do with onions.  I’m not sure that it is used as a verb but to us it is a doing word.

And leftover Soubised Onions? Add them to gravy, shepherd’s pie, when deglazing a pan after cooking steak, sautéed mushrooms, cheese on toast, sandwiches, omelettes, pizzas etc.

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23 February 2012

Life not too short to stuff ½ a mushroom!

~  Menu  ~

1½ Stuffed Mushrooms – details below
Balsamic Glaze & Nubbly Bread
Small glass Secret Red

Yesterday’s lunch was about as sudden as it gets – even after I’d started making it I wasn’t sure what it was!  Getting peckish and with nothing planned I perused the surprisingly empty fridge (probably because I cleared it out the other day) and the only things I could find that really needed using up were 1½ chestnut mushrooms and a small dish containing a tiny amount of leftover bread sauce (recipe for luxurious twist on bread sauce here) and a bit (small bit) of stuffing.  I wondered about mushrooms on toast with a creamy sauce.  Not enough mushrooms to go on toast. 

I stirred the sauce and stuffing together in a thoughtful way.  I took a picture ...

That’s a teaspoon by the way.
The mushrooms and I looked at each other and then I stuffed ’em; bunged the mixture in the mushrooms, scattered with panko crumbs, drizzled with olive oil and cooked in a hot oven till crispy and golden.  I only had a few small salad leaves and half an onion to garnish but the balsamic glaze not only looked good but tasted great.  Phew – close one but I got away with it again.

Can you tell what it is yet?
Today’s lunch was sudden too – last night I had tomato soup with cheese straws made from pastry scraps and today I had leftover cheese straws with a dipping sauce, so to speak, make by mixing roasted garlic mayonnaise into 2 tbsp leftover soup. 


I have just joined Follow Me on Pinterest where one can create different boards on which to store, display and share one’s different interests – mainly collected from the web.  I have started 5 boards so far: books that I’d recommend, other people’s food that I fancy eating, just lovely photos, things that I think are funny (both haha and peculiar) and one of my own food pics that I am pleased with but aren’t usually accepted by the food porn sites.  To join Pinterest you have to be invited either by Pinterest (you ask them to ask you!) or another member.  If you follow me – see button at the side – and ask me I can invite you if you like! 
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21 February 2012

Happy Palindromic Pancake Day!

~  Menu  ~

Butternut & Chilli Hash with a Poached Egg
Very small glass of red
Leftover Pancake Batter

Last night I cooked a full on roast chicken dinner for the menfolk.  I often do that because a) they like it, b) it’s cheap (£5 for a 2kg chicken), and c) there are loads of leftovers.  They have all the traditional stuff but for me, I always cook roasted butternut squash with red onions and chilli flakes to which, last night, I added a couple of parsnips.  Delish but not so delish I could eat it all!

And so for lunch today I tipped the remains of my roasted veg into a hot pan, lightly mashed and pressed it into a cake-ish form and fried it till hot and golden.  I then ate it topped with a poached new laid egg (see here for info on poaching eggs) and finished with a few leftover croutons crumbled over it to provide some crunch.

Pancake Day today, of course, which to me means the yummy delicate crèpe type pancakes my Mummy used to serve with lemon and sugar.  However my real man begged to differ and also needed breakfast before going to work so I made equally viable thick American style pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.  This too is yummy.

My Standard Pancakes Recipe

This makes about five 3" pancakes is …

120g plain flour
pinch salt
1 tbsp sugar
rounded teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
100ml milk
a little vegetable oil

~   Stir together the first 4 ingredients.
~   Male a well in the middle of the flour mixture.
~   Break the egg into the well.
~   Gently whisk the egg into the flour and, as it thickens, gradually add the milk, still whisking, till you have a thick but pourable batter.  This may or may not take all the milk, or might even need a tad more, depending on the make and age of the flour.
~   Heat a non stick frying pan and carefully, using a piece of paper towel, smear the surface with a little cooking oil.
~   When the pan is hot and greasy pour a 3" circle of batter in the pan and cook till the surface is pitted with burst bubble holes.
~   Using a spatula or a deft flip of the wrist turn the pancake and cook till the other side is golden.

Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven till all are done so everyone can eat together.

My man ate 4 with 2 thick slices of bacon and I had 2 with 0 slices of bacon.  There was a little batter left in the bowl so I decided to finish it off in an artistic (for me) sort of way. for lunch pudding; I tried to a spiral of batter in the pan and added a few chopped walnuts!

I then made An Arrangement on a plate and drizzled with the maple syrup.  Tasted much the same as breakfast but looked better!

Nice palindromic date today, by the way – 2102 2012!


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18 February 2012

Clearing out the Fridge

~  Menu  ~

Honeyed Stilton on Toast
Glass of Dessert Wine
(can’t remember exactly what!)
Strawberry Flan & Clotted Cream

A funny thing happened to me this morning.  I got up as usual and was just drinking my coffee when all of a sudden I was struck by an unfamiliar sensation …

… I felt like doing housework!  So I cleaned out the fridge and below is a list of what I found and what I did or am going to do with it.

~   ½ a cucumber – I'll pickle it, see Lightly Pickled Cucumber here for recipe (incidentally this is  one of my most popular posts because of the Rumpot recipe therein)
~   2 packs cheap strawberries so I made a flan (English flan, not American where “flan”, indefinite article, means a sort of egg custard) with a sponge base I had laying around in the freezer.   My real man is chuffed.

~   a small bowl of cooked rice
~   a few salmon trimmings
~   a Peas and Edamame Salad from Tesco – I shall stir fry this with the above rice, the above salmon and a spoonful of lovely spicy but sadly secret sauce that my friend Deb gave me.
~   pastry scraps – I always have these – probably cheese straws because I love ‘em, but see here for lots of ideas
~   a few tablespoons of cooked mince – left over from Real Man’s Mince & Dumplings  – make myself a chilli as in Chilli con a bit of Carne here.
~   a little bit of juice from cooking plums – refreshing drink with sparkling water or maybe stir into yogurt for breakfast tomorrow.
~   about an ounce of cooked ham and 1 rasher bacon – these will go into tomorrows roast chicken stuffing
~   a small piece of Stilton – with this I made ...

Honeyed Stilton on Toast

... which is just gorgeous; the sweet caramelised honey is a perfect foil for the sharp, salty taste of blue cheese.  Crumble Stilton or a similar blue cheese over toast and drizzle each slice with a teaspoon or two of runny honey.  Bake in a hot oven for about 10 minutes till the cheese is melted and the honey is bubbly and golden. (See here for lots more cheese on toast ideas.)

~   a glass or so of dessert wine – I drank it.  What would you do?

After lunch I completely lost the urge to do housework!


Please click on the links below to Tweet this useful information.

~   Honeyed Stilton on Toasts; caramelised honey is a perfect foil for the sharp, salty taste of blue cheese. 
~   Make the most of clearing out the fridge. 

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14 February 2012

Famous One Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

We were “lucky” enough to buy 10 bananas for 57p the other day.   I say “lucky” like that because, as I have mentioned before, I am bananaphobic.  The only good thing about bananas is how excellent they look when growing - see this picture I took!  

In my quest, however, to tackle every possible leftover situation I thought I’d experiment with freezing the buggers.  This was mainly because I have seen a lot on the internet about One Ingredient Ice Cream so I did that …

It is so simple – all I did was peel and slice a banana (not too thick – about 6mm) and freeze it.  I then ran it through the processor and it went sort of broken up and granular and then smooth and creamy although, sadly, still tasted like bananas!  I believe, however, that this can be disguised to a certain extent by adding other flavourings – eg. how about a bit of instant coffee and/or some rum, or chocolate sauce or crispy bacon (yes, bacon), or vanilla extract, or …..

Slices of frozen banana can also be snacked on straight out of the freezer, perhaps dunked in melted chocolate as you eat them, or used in smoothies or larger pieces can be coated in  chocolate once frozen to make banana choc ices. 

Or just mash bananas and freeze for later use in banana bread, cakes, muffins, pancakes etc.  Add a little lemon juice so stop discolouration and store in smallish amounts rather than one bloody great lump.

So my real man has had a bit of a banana fest today (as he had to be my main tester) but not to be outdone I did a small apple experiment too.   I had a spoonful of cooked Bramley apples and some pastry scraps so cheered myself up with a fried apple turnover I been meaning to attempt for some while.

Just fold the pastry around the apple, seal and fry in a mixture of butter and oil.  I am Very Pleased with this; instant and cheap gratification.  Instead of pre-heating the oven and baking for 30 minutes or so I had delicious apple pie within minutes and the pastry was lovely fried instead of baked. 

Talking of being pleased and completely off subject I just wanted to share something that makes me grin every time I see it; the cover of a bargain diary I have recently bought.

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9 February 2012

Save the Children Lunch at St. Petroc's Bistro

~  Menu ~

“Pizza Bianca” with Mushrooms & Black Garlic
Secret Red

In the fridge today was a small dish of leftover Alfredo Sauce, 2 mushrooms and half a pizza base.  Lunch was immediately obvious ...

See here for Alfredo Sauce recipe (used in a similar way!) – I just spread the cold sauce on the base and topped with the mushrooms, coarsely chopped black garlic, grated Gran Padano and coarsely ground black pepper.  Talk about Lunch!

Speaking of which yesterday my friend Carol and I partook of lunch at St. Petroc’s Bistro – one of Rick Stein’s many eateries in Padstow.  It was a special menu to raise money for Save the Children.  

 I had …

Seafood Soup
Baked Cod with Garlic
Orange Tart with Crème Fraîche

Carol had …

Smoked Trout with Horseradish Cream
Seafood Thermidore
Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb and a (perfect) Shortbread

It was both good value and delicious with excellent friendly service but I do have a small demur - it was a very, very, very, very garlicky meal.  Not only was the cod topped with whole garlic cloves but the dish of perfectly cooked cabbage served with the meal was at least 25% al dente slices of garlic.  Now I don’t mind a bit of garlic, me, but my real man was appalled when he got home and had to feed me humbugs throughout the evening to try and clear the air!

Periodic Tables – oddly enough!

I have seen a few unusual periodic tables on the net recently; 

But the very best one I have seen is this  …

... simple yet effective.

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4 February 2012

"The Oxford Companion to Food" by Alan Davidson

~  Menu  ~

Cauliflower & Cornish Crackler Fritters
Spicy Tomato Sauce
Glass of Secret Red

Last night I cooked too much cauliflower and was going to sneak it into tonight’s veggies to go with my Real Man’s Mince & Dumplings but I had a better idea.

Cauliflower & Cheddar Fritters – I made this up as I went along but had the presence of mind to notice what I was doing for once!

2 tbsp self raising flour
30g grated Cheddar – I used lovely Cornish Crackler
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
a little milk
100g cooked cauliflower – in small pieces

~   Mix together the flour, cheese and seasonings.
~   Stir in the egg and then add enough milk to make a very soft dough (or, possibly, a very thick batter).
~   Stir in the cauliflower.
~   Drop tablespoonfully into a little hot olive oil and fry till crisp and golden on both sides.

I topped these with a big spoonful of spicy tomato pasta sauce which I always keep in my store cupboard.  It occurs to me that these fritters would work, with flavour adjustments, for 100g of all sorts of leftovers!

I have just been to the library and collected The “Oxford Companion to Food” – luckily I had my real man with because it is HUGE!  I cannot conceive of the mind of Mr. Alan Davidson who has compiled so much food info.  It’s phenomenal!

I looked up Lunch, although I thought I already knew what it is and discovered that …”there are few foreign equivalents” to lunch as most countries consider midday a good time for their main meal.  I learnt that our modern meal of lunch dates back to the early 19th century when it was a meal mainly partaken by women or ladies who lunch.  I am delighted to read that many 19th century lunches appear to have been “collations of leftovers” but not that “British lunch has generally lacked gastronomic interest” – well not here!  Having aspired to become one of the “lunch-eating classes” I am determined to make the most of the meal.

I have just dipped into this wonderful book so far - it is very interesting and informative but tiring on the arms.  

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