28 April 2012

Toad in the Crevasse!

For my beloved last night I made Toad in the Crevasse from which, as is usual with meals I cook for him, there were no leftovers.  Nevertheless I thought I’d mention it as it does lend itself to things other than sausages, such as leftovers.

For 4 years I ran the kitchen of the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club which, although “abroad”, was full of Brits.  Having lived away from the UK for several years I found it strangely pleasant, at least at first, to hear people calling each other plonkers

I used to put lots of English comfort food on the menu for said plonkers.  One day I heard two of the girls I worked with discussing the menu – Ronia from Jamaica said to Janet from St. Vincent “Toad in the Hole!!!” in a shocked voice.  They both giggled.  Then Ronia said “Suzy – she rude!” This seems to be a cross cultural reaction.  In England our toads always seemed to be wedged into cracks in our Yorkshire pud so, in the interests of truth and accuracy, we renamed it toad in the crevasse.  For some inexplicable reason this caused people to smirk and call us filthy gits!   It also meant we sold a lot of Toad in the Crevasse as people came just to have a giggle.  

Toad in the Hole 

1 batch Yorkshire pudding batter ~ see here for my Yorkshire Pudding recipe 
500g lovely pork sausages
½ tbsp oil

~   Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC/170ºC fan/gas 5..
~   Grease a shallow ovenproof dish; I find Pyrex diesel work best for a toad. 
~   Cut the sausages in half (or not, if you prefer) and arrange with gaps between.
~   Bake till they are browning, turning sometimes, and have exuded some fat.
~   Remove the dish from the oven, put a baking tray in the oven and increase the heat to 425ºF/220ºC/200ºC fan/gas 7.
~   Swirl the sausages in their pan to evenly coat the pan with oil and, if your sausages have been very fatty spoon most of it off.  There should be enough to coat the pan and a teaspoonful or so more  Maybe use the excess fat to make gravy.
~   Rearrange the sausages in the dish, stir the batter and pour in amongst them. 
~   Return to the oven standing on the hot baking tray - this will make for a crispy bottom.
~   Bake till the Yorkshire (pudding is implied) is risen and crisp and brown.  DO NOT open the oven for about 15 minutes or the whole thing will deflate.  

Of course this lends itself to many variations some of which are useful for making a great meal from leftovers.

Instead of sausages use …

~   Meatballs (leftover cooked - or part cook first)
~   Roasted Vegetables
~   Balls of leftover stuffing.
~   Almost cooked lamb chops (if you can afford them!)
~   Posh sausages – venison for instance.
~   Fruit to make a Clafouti - see here for clafouti recipe.

… or add herbs or spices to the batter.

This batter recipe makes a very light, crisp Yorkshire rather than a rib sticker and is delicious.  I have seen loads of variations some containing vinegar, some with inordinate amounts of flour and even some with raising agent added which is anathema to a Yorkshire Pud.  My recipe which I have used for years both professionally and in the privacy of our own home always works and is almost astoundingly economical!

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23 April 2012

How One Leftover leads to Another

~  Menu  ~

Minestrone-ish Soup
Wild Garlic Bread
Glass of Red

This lunch was the first dish in a series of meals created to use up leftovers.  Having grated a piece of gran padano down to the rind I decided that I would use the heel of the cheese to make some warming minestrone-ish soup.

Simple Minestrone (ish) Soup

1 small red onion – finely diced
about ¼ carrot – finely diced
1 celery stalk – finely diced
a smidgen of garlic – either paste or crushed
½ tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp tomato paste
150g canned chopped tomatoes
hot vegetable stock
100g cannellini beans
a heel of parmesan
a few veg of your choice (savoy cabbage is traditional)

~   Cook the onion, carrot and celery in the oil over medium heat till starting to caramelise.
~   Stir in the garlic and cook a few seconds more.
~   Add the tomato paste and cook a few more seconds more!
~   Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil.
~   Now add enough vegetable stock to make a lovely soupy consistency.
~   Turn down the heat, cover and simmer till the vegetables are tender.
~   Remove from the heat and add the parmesan heel.  Cover and leave to steep for 20-30 minutes by which time the cheese should have done its work.  Remove the rind but stir in any cheese that has melted into the soup.
~   Return to a boil, stir in the cannelloni beans and any veg you might using, cover and simmer till the vegetables are to your liking.

I slathered some Ciabatta with Wild Garlic Pesto and toasted it to serve with the soup.  Unfortunately after making the soup I had half a container of white beans left so I made …

White Bean and Wild Garlic Dip

120g cooked or canned cannellini beans
4 or 5 well washed wild garlic leaves
A squeeze of lemon juice
A little olive oil
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

~   Process together the beans and wild garlic and then with the processor running drizzle in the olive oil till a hummus like texture is achieved.  (Yes, as you will see from the photo I well a little too far!)
~   Season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

A white wine Spritzer was called for in this instance.

As it happened I couldn't eat all the hummus and so I made Wild Garlic and Potato Soup and stirred in the last of the white bean stuff.  This was especially cunning of me because not only did I have some ready cooked “Onions Soubise” in the fridge I also had a modicum of leftover mashed potato, so this is what I did.

~   Gently heated the onions till warm and melty.

~   Stirred in the leftover mashed potato together with enough vegetable stock (Oxo) to make a soup consistency.

~   Turned down the heat, covered and cooked for about 10 minutes to meld the flavours.
~   Stirred in a handful of wild garlic leaves till wilted.
~   Tipped the whole lot into the food processor together with knob of clotted cream (but double cream, single cream, crème fraîche, milk etc. would work too) and puréed till smoth.
~   I then stirred in the leftover White Bean Hummus which gave a little texture.

That worked!  Sorry no photo, camera battery was flat.  I blame myself!

I ate the lot this time but if I hadn’t I was thinking of trying any leftover soup with bacon and cream as a pasta sauce!

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19 April 2012

Two Cornish Fusion Beef Soups!

~  Menu  ~

Beef , Wine & Clotted Cream Soup
Nubbly Toast
Glass of Red

As you probably know, the new series of Two Greedy Italians starts tonight at 8.00 on BBC 2.  This seems, therefore, an ideal time to tell you about the excellent soup I had for lunch today.

You may remember that in my review of "Two Greedy Italians eat Italy" a few days ago I mentioned that I was making some beef stock.  Well I froze it and today I made the Beef & Wine Soup (aka Eisacktaler Weinsuppe) from the book with, of course, a few changes because that’s Life.  I had no double cream so used clotted, Cornish-Italian Fusion, and also I added some shreds of beef from the stock.  

Beef & Wine Soup 

My version for one! 

Why not pin for later?
A bowl’s-worth of lovely rich beef stock
A goodly splash of white wine
A slice or 2 of nubbly bread
A knob of butter *** ~ scroll down for a slightly rude joke
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tbsp or so of clotted cream
A generous grating of Parmesan cheese

~   Simmer together the stock and wine for a minute.
~   Remove from the heat and set aside.
~   Fry the bread in the butter till crisp and golden.
~   Sprinkle the toast with the cinnamon arrange it in the bowl.
~   Stir the cream and a spoonful of grated parmesan into the soup and reheat gently till warm.
~   Pour over the toast and sprinkle with more parmesan.

The soup was quick, cheap, easy and truly delicious; my kind of food.  This is something I will definitely make again just as soon as I’ve assembled some more beef scraps.

If, however, you fancy something similar but more time consuming substantial try my version of

Onion Soup Gratinée OR Runny Onion Gravy topped with Cheese on Toast

This is a quick, easy and no doubt inauthentic version of the classic French Onion Soup.  As above really good, rich, beefy homemade stock make a big difference to the finished soup.

1 medium onion
15 g butter OR 1 tablespoon of olive oil
pinch of salt
glug of dry white wine
a bowl of lovely rich beef stock
a little flour - optional
a thick slices or two of good bread, toasted
Grated Gruyère or possibly Davidstow Cornish Crackler!
brandy – optional-ish

~   Cook the onions as described here; The Best Way to Cook Onions
~   When utterly tender urn up the heat and cook, stirring, till the it starts to caramelised and, to an extent, to stick on the bottom of the pan.  Just a bit, mind you.
~   Add the white wine and stir to dissolve any lovely onioniness from the bottom of the pan. …
~   I don’t think it is traditional to add flour to the classic French version of the soup but I always add a little; t makes the soup easier to eat as it is more likely to stay on the spoon.  So, if you agree, stir in a little flour to make a paste.  If you don’t, don’t!
~  Add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 
~  Taste and season

To serve pour a little brandy into the soup bowl, ladle in the soup, top each bowl with a slice or two of toasted bread and sprinkle with grated cheese.  Gruyere is traditionally used in France, in England a good mature Cheddar is a pleasant alternative; not a substitute for Gruyere but delicious in its own right.   Flash the soup and its topping under a hot grill or put in a hot oven for a few seconds to melt and bubble the cheese.  OR top with crunchy croutons and cheese for trouble free eating.


I have been to France a few times but never been to Italy which is odd because I am quite well travelled.  It is, however, top of my list of places I want to visit, one reason being the food.  Reading “Two Greedy Italians” some of the dishes surprised me, the Beef and Wine Soup being a case in point; even its name is a bit German because, so the book tells us, the soup is from the eastern side of Italy, near Germany.  Because of this I did wonder if the recipes in the book are authentic but following my book review of the other day an Italian lady who is a member of my Facebook Group “Sudden Lunch”  wrote as follows …

“I saw the 1st series … and yes it was proper Italian food, plus Carluccio, although a Southerner, has a very good knowledge of Northern Italian cuisine (which does not involve all that pasta and pizza, but lots of rice, polenta, etc), so the 2 together give a balanced idea of Italian food …"

***  Slightly Rude Joke! 


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16 April 2012

Wild Garlic ~ Calloo, Callay!

Wild garlic is frequently known as ramsons, formally as allium ursinum and occasionally and sometimes rather rudely as bear's garlic, jack-by-hedge, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, devil's garlic, stinking Jenny and gypsy's onions.  Some of these names don’t do it justice because It Is Yummy with a wonderful kind of a mild garlic-chive taste.


foraging for wild garlic

Last year was the first time I had ever picked wild garlic and I was ecstatic!  Lovely, fresh, delicious and free food!  I have been looking forward to this year’s crop ever since and yesterday picked a carrier bag full.  

Freezing Wild Garlic

I stemmed and washed and dried the lot and then chopped it in my tiny food processor together with a thin drizzle of olive oil to help it.  I spooned the result into an ice cube tray and froze it tightly wrapped to stop other things in the freezer tasting garlicky.  Scroll down to the end of the post on ideas for using frozen wild garlic.

Wild Garlic Pesto 

I had too many chopped leaves for the ice cube tray so added walnuts and grated Gran Padano (as per my wild garlic pesto recipe) to the processor together with enough oil to make Wild Garlic Pesto.  I put the pesto in a clean jar,  topped it up with copious amounts of olive oil to keep the air out and put it in the fridge.  Scroll down to the end of the post on ideas for using wild garlic pesto.


Wild Garlic Vinaigrette

I couldn't get every scrap of the precious stuff out of the food processor and you know how I hate waste so I added a spoonful of cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar plus salt and pepper and some more olive oil and made – Wild Garlic Vinaigrette (see my "genius recipe" for vinaigrette here).I poured this into a jug to dress my salad for dinner.

never-waste-wild-garlic!… and so on!

The food processor still looked a little unfinished so, still hating waste, I wiped it out with a piece of salmon which was intended for my dinner. 

The resulting meal tasted excellent but was strangely out of focus so doesn't deserve to be seen!

And the leftovers?

Easy peasy, I munged together leftover salmon from my dinner last night, leftover mashed potato from my menfolks’ dinner last night and a teaspoonful of my Wild Garlic Pesto.  I formed an admittedly large fishcake, pressed it onto a plate of panko, shallow fried till crisp and went for it.


How to use Fresh Wild Garlic ...

~   Add the leaves and flowers to salads.
~   Garnish dishes with the flowers – they are very pretty!
~   Sprinkle chopped leaves onto all sorts of dishes.
~   Add to omelettes and scrambled eggs.
~   Keep the flowers in a vase on the kitchen windowsill amongst all the rest of the paraphernalia; they don’t make a smell!

wild garlic flowers don't smell

How to Use Frozen Wild Garlic …

~   Stir into soups and sauces,
~   Add a cube when deglazing a pan to make a quick sauce for meat or fish.
~   Stir into polenta for the last few minutes of cooking.
~   Mash into potatoes.
~   Stir into risotto.

How to Use Wild Garlic Pesto

~   Stir into mayonnaise.
~   Whisk in vinegar or lemon juice and more oil to make a great salad dressing.
~   Rub onto meat and fish as a marinade and leave a few hours before cooking.
~   Stir into Alfredo Sauce for a lovely pasta dish.
~   Just toss with freshly pasta for a yummy simple dish.
~   Drizzle over sliced tomatoes.
~   Garnish soup with a spoonful or a drizzle.
~   Spread into sandwiches and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 

See here and here for more ideas from last year's crop.

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15 April 2012

Rest and Play Café in Roche, Cornwall

This is just a quickie ...

May I introduce and recommend the Rest and Play Café in Roche, Cornwall – my friend Diane and I visited it on Friday and were both struck by the sheer wonderfulness of the concept and its operation.

The Rest & Play Café is a community meeting place and café in a beautifully renovated barn in village of Roche.   

It opened 3 or 4 months ago and in addition to selling all day breakfasts, light lunches, homemade cakes, teas and good coffees etc. they do all sorts of things.  There is a large and interesting play area for children 

They hold Tots’ Rock sessions and story making and for adults host a book club, craft lessons, display various artists of their walls, organise foraging walks and the day we visited they were holding a seed swap.  The idea was to take along excess seeds and swap them with other people.  We didn’t have any leftover seeds which didn’t matter at all, at all.  The Lost Gardens of Heligan had donated some seeds which we were given (I have chilli seeds, of course, and Diane has rocket, I think).  I was also given a clump of baby lettuces growing …

… and there is also a book swap where we exchanged a book Diane had in the car for a Nigel Slater cookbook ~ bargain!

The café is open 7 days a week and is available for hire .  They are wheelchair friendly, have a small car park at the rear of the building, that take telephone orders (01726 893055), do takeaway, only charge £1 to refill hot drinks, do child portions (of course) and are really friendly and welcoming.   

So if you are in Roche do please pay Rest and Play Café a visit, doubly so if you have children. Might see you there.

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13 April 2012

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Advisory Service

~  Menu  ~

Cheddar & Green Chilli “Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Secret Red

Two nations divided by a common language! 

There is a strong American influence in the Caribbean, even in the British Virgin Islands, and when I was first there I was sometimes discombombulated by the American usage of English words.  A lot of this confusion was quite fun eg.

“I shall be with you momentarily”
I’m afraid I shall need you for longer than that!”

... plus much giggling about the word fanny etc. but in the kitchen it could be a problem.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich is a case in point ~ did you rather suspect it would be?  

In England when we say "grill" as a verb we mainly mean cooking something, often toast, under our eye level grill (noun) on our cooker.   To Americans this verb usually means to cook over the source of heat as in a BBQ.  So far as they are concerned we broil our toast.  And therefore a grilled cheese sandwich is …?  Yes, it’s fried which was quite a surprise for me the first time one was ordered.  I suppose this is from the word griddled.

A traditional American Grilled Cheese Sandwich comprises two slices of sliced white bread filled with slices of processed "cheese" which is rubbery and yuk but melts well.  The outside of the sandwich is buttered and it is cooked in a hot pan till the outside is crispy and the inside is melty.  It is a good idea which lends itself to huge improvement particularly in the cheese department but also by using good bread and adding complimentary ingredients.

Mayonnaise is a great addition to a grilled cheese sandwich, spread both inside. See here for an interesting article about cooking with mayonnaise.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich ~ Method

~  Make a cheese sandwich – grated cheese melts quicker and more evenly than sliced.
~  Spread the outside of the sarnie with butter.
~  Heat a dry frying pan.
~  Lay the sandwich in the pan, cover the pan and turn down the heat.  Cook for a few minutes till the first side is crisp and golden and the inside starting to melt.
~  Turn the sandwich and cook the second side uncovered so that the first crispy side stays crisp.  

For my standard Grilled Cheese Sarnie I spread the insides of the sandwith with mayonnaise and also with a scraping of Patak's excellent Chilli Pickle.  I use grated Davidstow Cornish Crackler Cheddar and I don’t usually butter the outside of the sandwich but rather I dry fry it in a futile attempt to lose weight.

For my non-standard grilled cheese sandwiches I use all manner of things and, of course, they are perfect vehicles for leftovers.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ideas

~  Goat cheese and parma ham
~  Blue cheese and pear – on walnut bread if poss
~  Brie, crispy bacon and a little cranberry sauce
~  Cheddar and ham
~  Mozzarella, tomato and pesto or fresh basil
~  Roasted veggies and Feta
~  Gruyère and sautéed mushrooms
~  Blue cheese & black garlic.
~  Gruyère and caramelised onions – a kind of French Onion (Soup) Sandwich, maybe serve it with some dipping gravy!  
~  Add chutney, pesto, mayonnaise, pickle, sauces etc.
~  Use different breads.
~  If buttering the outside of the sandwich use different flavoured butters such as garlic butter, black pepper butter etc.  See here for lots of different butter ideas.

Incidentally American cookers have their grills/broilers underneath the oven at ground level.  I asked an American friend why this is and he said because they like to watch their wives bend over in the morning!

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10 April 2012

What to do with Leftover Soup!

~  Menu  ~

Spicy Roasted Tomato & Fresh Coriander Scrambled Eggs
Toasted Ciabatta
Red Wine
Homemade Cookies from a Friend

We haven’t been food shopping for almost 2 weeks due to the aforementioned bout of ‘flu but I like to think I keep a tight ship, doncha know, so there’s been no problems.  Today I was a bit lost for something to get me cheerful about lunch but a quick glance in the fridge helped tremendously.

A couple of nights ago I had roasted tomato and chilli soup but still being a little under the weather was so pathetic I left a little.  Really a little; less that 2 tbsp but I couldn’t throw it away.  For some reason, perhaps you are the same, if I throw something away immediately I feel guiltier than if I leave it in the fridge a few days and then throw it away.  Lunch then was this modicum of soup heated up, 2 eggs broken in plus some chopped fresh coriander, scrambly, scrambly – toasted Ciabatta, red wine.   All’s well.

Handy Tip when making Scrambled Eggs

Incidentally a good tip for making extra delish scrambled egg (which I didn’t do today) is when the egg is just how you want it add a knob of butter or a splash of cream which not only enhances both taste and texture but also cools the eggs down so they don’t keep on cooking whilst you serve them. Scrambled eggs can be buggers that way.  I think that officially this idea is credited to Julia Child although I am sure lots of people must have realised the same thing independently.

If you click through to the Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe you will find another tasty way to use up soup remains.  Of course much depends on the flavour of your leftover soup but here are some other ideas:

~   add to more soup!
~   use to deglaze a pan to make a sauce
~   just use as a sauce!
~   put a spoonful of warmed leftover soup into a buttered ramekin, crack over an egg, drizzle with a little more soup or some cream and bake at 350ºF/180ºC/160°C fan/gas 4 till the egg whites are set and the yolk just perfect: approx 20 mins.
~   add to casseroles and pasta bakes
~   mash into potato
~   stir into mayonnaise
~   fry it, having made certain adjustments ~ see below.


Several of these ideas are included in The Leftovers Handbook.  If these are just some of the suggestions I can think of for leftover soup don't you wonder what ideas I have for the other 450 potential leftovers?

Soup Fritters!

The most fabulously impressive thing I ever did with leftover soup was make fritters!  For a few years (not all of them consecutive!!) I ran the kitchen of The Tamarind Club in Tortola and, as anyone who knows Tortola will understand, Sunday’s at the Tamarind Club are hugely busy and no time for mucking about.  Well …

… we had a group of regulars who for several days had been verging on having a celebration, I can’t remember what.  Suddenly just as we were serving the last brunch dishes and cleaning down they decided they needed a party with nibbles that very afternoon.  So I added handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs to the last couple of portions of the Seafood Chowder, chilled, balled up and fried till crisp.  People, as is typical of People I find, asked for the recipe.  They only do this when it is almost impossible to give one. 

I have posted the Seafood Chowder recipe before, ages ago, but that post has corrupted so I’ll do it again some time.

Here, apropos of nothing, is a picture of some lillies my Real Man brought home yesterday.  If you feel he can’t be that real-mannish buying flowers I would point out they were one a helluva bargain!

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