Month: September 2008

do people buy this stuff?

do people *buy* this stuff?

I went to Asda – I hate it, but I needed some fizzy water and some shampoo, and some wafer thin meat for the cats.  I shouldn’t go round the aisles, really; it just makes me cross, and astonished.

I can understand people buying a cake – hell, I’ve done it myself.  I can understand people buying frozen Yorkshire puddings. I guess, although how hard is it to add an egg and some milk to flour and whisk it up?

But I don’t understand why people buy a mix and cook it – either buy the stuff ready to eat, or make it from scratch. I bet you could buy an Asda sponge cake for £1.98.  Perhaps it’s just me …

making good use …

jam tarts

… of the oven. I’m trying to cook in a different style – more on the hob, and less lighting of the big oven unless I can use it for more than one thing. I have a decent oven in the microwave, so I use that more now as well.

We were supposed to be going out last night, but one of the cats is unwell, and we didn’t want to leave her. Of course, we had nothing planned for supper, so we pulled the last tub of chilli from the freezer (must make some more!), and as it was frozen solid, I set it in a small cast iron casserole in a low oven to thaw.

I took advantage of the time needed to do this to make brown rice to accompany it – brown takes a lot longer than basmati, and we are rarely organised enough, or unhungry enough, to wait for it! I cooked it with shallot and cumin seeds, and it was very nice, although a little crunchier than I’d have liked.

As the oven was on, I took the black bananas and turned them into a couple of banana cakes – this time with chocolate buttons, rather than sultanas. Then Pete rolled out the last of the pastry from our impulse mince pie frenzy earlier this week (I didn’t tell you about that – I took the organic mincemeat from the jar and mixed it up with some bourbon 🙂 … and we made jam tarts! I don’t think I’ve ever made jam tarts before. We used lingonberry jam, and gooseberry – sadly, and shamefully, the morello cherry, and greengage and almond, had gone furry. I shan’t let that happen again, particularly as the jam tarts were so yummy. Not, I’ll grant, the most elegant of presentations, but still delicious.

So that was a good haul for the oven. It’s going on again today to roast and glaze a lump of cooked gammon that came out of the freezer – that’ll do for lunch this week – and a slow roast belly pork with sweet potato mash and poached fennel for tonight’s dinner.

fusion risotto

fusion risotto

using up: cold roast duck, 1/4 tin coconut milk

Now, this really was quite barking, and I wasn’t at all sure it would work, but nothing ventured, etc.

As I said, there was more duck left on the carcass than we thought, so risotto seemed appropriate.  Basic rule of risotto in this house is 5 oz risotto rice to 1 pint liquid; the liquid can be anything you like, or a permutation there of – stock, wine, lemon juice, water.  So, I thought, in a mad, end-of-the-week sort of way, why not use up the bit of coconut milk left from the spring greens the other night.

So: one leek, fairly finely chopped, sautéd in olive oil and butter; I like butter in a risotto.  Put the coconut milk in a jug and topped it up to a pint with water, added a pinch of Marigold vegetable powder.  If you don’t have this in your larder, I strongly recommend you get some – it’s a great invention.

Put the rice in with the leek and stir it around to coat it, then start adding the liquid.  I will confess here that I used to be bone idle, and put all the liquid in at this point and bung the dish in the oven, but what with the price of gas these days, I’m trying to use the hob more, so I’m actually doing it risotto in a more tradiitonal way.  I don’t keep the stock bubbling on the hob though, I’m afraid; purists, feel free to tut.

Add the liquid bit by bit, stirring all the while so that it is absorbed by the rice, then add a bit more.  When I’d used almost all the liquid, I put in the shredded duck, some sel gris, and black pepper.  And then I threw all caution to the wind, fully embraced the Thai / Italian fusion thing, and added some lime juice.

It really had no business working, but it was gorgeous. Only very slightly coconuty, but a beautiful texture and the flavours went together really really well.  I don’t suppose I’ll ever be able to recreate it, but I might try – prawns would work instead of duck.

duck soup

photo by Eberman @ Flickr
photo by Eberman @ Flickr

I boiled up the duck carcass – Pete was a hero and stripped it down afterwards; it’s a job I hate. A surprising amount of meat came off it.  And there was, of course, a lot of duck stock.

I had deliberately cooked extra veg with the duck on Monday (carrot and leek in vegetable bouillon, since you ask) and had saved that in a box in the fridge.  I put that, the rest of the fresh carrots (they needed using up) and a leek in the Magimix and whizzed them up.  I sautéd this veg mix gently in my big soup pot for about 15 minutes, then poured the stock on top and left it overnight.  I added a little of the remaining duck meat, shredded very fine.

Put some butter beans to soak in water overnight, and then put them in the stock pot this morning, set it over a very low light, and it was ready for lunch.

rye bread, finished articleWe had it with some rye bread, which was utterly gorgeous. Just as well, as the stuff took three days to make … (not full time, obviously, but toing and froing with starters and stuff).

spring greens in coconut milk

spring greens in coconut milk

using up: spring greens

This is a really simple and easy dish, and vegan to boot, which is always useful to have in your arsenal of recipes.

Put on some rice to cook – we had basmati, with a lemon quartered into it to give it a nice flavour.

Finely chop some garlic and a dried chilli, and fry them in some groundnut oil for a minute or so; I use a wok for this. Take a tin of coconut milk – I used about 2/3 of it for two of us – add it to the wok, and boil it vigorously for about ten minutes, to reduce it to a fairly gloopy texture.

While that’s going on, take a bunch of spring greens and shred them fairly finely – up to you whether you remove the stalks or not.  Blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain and press the water out. The greens want to go into the coconut gloop about five minutes before the end.

duck surprise*

It seems daft to tell you how to make a stir fry - you all know how to make a stir fry, surely?! But they are great ways of Using Things Up, so I do try to write them up.

We bought an organic duck on Sunday at the farm shop at Puxton Park - it could not be described as cheap, and I know that there's not much eating on a duck, but this one cost thirteen quid, and did us one roast meal, and some scrapeens (Irish word). I've boiled up the carcass to make soup, and the cats finished off the very bitty bits, but even so ...

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sausage supper

sausage supper

using up: polish sausage

Pete is very fond of kabanos sossidge for his luncheon, which we buy in bulk from Costco. However, the trip before last, they had no kabanos (and no Beurre Isigny either, which was a bit of a blow), so he bought a few packs of sausage from one of the Polish shops.  They weren’t nearly as nice, and some of them have languished in the fridge and need using up.

Last night, I took some of them and made a meal out of them.

Chopped one red onion three cloves of garlic, and a courgette.  Sautéd them in some olive oil (now there’s a change, dear reader!), added some chopped sage leaves and then the chunked sausage.  Added some feta to the mix at the end.

Put some macaroni in bowls, dobbed the mix on the top.  Very nice. I don’t know why people say they don’t have time to cook – this took 20 minutes start to finish,

Old-fashioned food

[no photo]

using up: some very tired cabbage.

We fancied sossidges last night; we usually have these either with mash and onion gravy, or with fried spuds and baked beans.  But as there was half a cabbage that needed eating …

We boiled some spuds, and steamed the cabbage above it.  Roughly mashed them together, melted some duck fat in the frying pan, and had …

BUBBLE AND SQUEAK!  Haven’t had it in ages, and had forgotten how good it is.

mushroom, garlic and cream sauce


Using up: mushrooms, cream

We popped into Bristol on Wednesday to buy my iPhone (bounce!), and found that the farmers’ market was on. Bristol is really badly served for food markets; this one is nice, but we work at home and so it’s not easy to pop into town during the week on a regular basis.  The freezers were full, and we were well stocked too, but we bought a couple of Pieminister pies, which we had for lunch when we got home, a couple of beautiful muffins (white choc and raspberry, and double choc chip), a bag of Worcester Pearmain apples, three varieties of sausage, a small punnet of local strawberries (hence the cream left over), and these lovely chestnut mushrooms.

So – a mushroom sauce.

Finely chopped two shallots and about five cloves of garlic.  Cut the mushrooms into chunks of about 1.5cm.  Put this lot in a pan with a BIG knob of butter and some olive oil.

Mushrooms are bastards – they slurp up all the oil and butter and you think everything’s going to burn and stick, and then all of a sudden they start exuding it all out again, so I cook them very slowly to confound them; these were done for probably 20 minutes.  At some point during this process I hurled in some chopped rosemary and sage from the garden.

Five minutes before the end, I put on some tagliagelle, and added a tiny splash of white wine – probably only a tablespoon, some double cream, and black pepper to the mushrooms.  Pete had parmesan on his, but I felt it didn’t need it.

We followed it up with the remains of a plum and pear crumble I made on Monday, and the very last of the cream.  All entirely gorgeous.

chickpeas and chorizo

chorizo and chickpeasusing up: chickpeas, a courgette, fresh coriander, a rather shrivelled lemon

I soaked and boiled some chickpeas for Saturday’s vegetable tagine, and as usual, I did too many.  I found a courgette in the fridge that was going a bit manky at one end, so that needed eating up as well, and the freezer audit revealed *14* chorizo sausages, which really does seem rather too many.  A plan was formed.

I chopped up:

one red onion, most of one courgette (see above), three cloves of garlic, one red pepper and two chorizo sausages. Set these to sauté over a low heat in some olive oil.  When you cook chorizo, they give off a lovely paprika-y juice, so don’t use too much oil if you’re doing this.

I let them cook for about 20 minutes over a fairly low gas, then added the chickpeas and the juice of a lemon, and carried on for, oh, about ten minutes on as low a gas as possible, just to warm them through.

Just before serving, I stirred in a handful of chopped coriander.  Decanted it into bowls and scoffed.

Followed it with local strawberries – yes really, in mid September!  More on that story later.