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Sunday, 6 November 2011

At last – perfect bread – shame about the husband!

Thank goodness the fireworks are over – the youngest dog spent last night in a state of terror – ears back, panting in corners of the kitchen.  Seems calm now though!  

Pretty much everything frightens her…. she tries to bite lumps out of the hoover  when we use it, gets very distressed if she hears me sharpening a knife, attacks my daughter’s hairdryer (while she is using it) and thinks the lawnmower is  a great big scary monster that needs to be killed.
I have been out for out for lunch a couple of times in the last two weeks.  I love going out for lunch – much better in my opinion than going out for dinner.
Had a day off and took my husband to Number 16, which is on Byres Road (No 16 Byres Road obviously!).  I have been once before (years ago) and remember it being good then too.  The pigs cheek starter was fabulous!  Great value – lunch for two (two courses) plus a couple of glasses of wine was just over £34.
Last week I met a friend for lunch at Coia’s on Duke Street, Dennistoun.  It had to be a quick 45 minute lunch – which is fine because service at Coia’s is quick.  I don’t even bother to look at the menu when I go there – I always have eggs benedict.
Today we are having slow roasted shoulder of pork (a sort of pulled pork) with coleslaw, home made bread, salad and filled potato skins.
I have discovered a bread recipe – eventually – that my children say is the best bread ever.  I have a bread baker and it’s OK but you don’t get the flexibility that you do when you make it from scratch yourself.  This recipe is easy and seems to give consistently good results – I have tried it a few times now to see that it wasn’t a fluke the first time.
1Lb bread flour
1 sachet of dried ready mix yeast
1 teaspoon salt
50 ml olive oil
230 – 250 warm water
Mix together and then knead for 10 minutes (5 minutes if using a dough hook and mixer)
Divide into 8 pieces and roll into long sausage shapes.
Lay on lightly floured baking trays – cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for 30 minutes
Pre heat oven to 180C
Take the cling film off and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with rock salt (and pepper if you like it as much as I do)
Bake for 20 minutes – take out of the oven and let them cool on the baking sheets.
The bread sticks are light and delicious.

I made little individual apple crumbles for pudding.  I only had a couple of apples so couldn’t make a big one.  Not everyone likes crumble so little ones are more practical anyway.

At the end of dinner husband (with the palate of a Labrador) asked …“does this lamb keep?   “It’s pork” I told him.  I have heard that you can buy a bowl shaped like a dog bowl with “MAN” written on it.  I am seriously considering this for his Christmas present.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Any chance of something pretty this year?

We have had a week of mechanical and technology failure.   Last weekend for no apparent reason the computer refused to load.  I tried shutting it down, starting it up, switching it off, unplugging and disconnecting all the wires, plugging them in again, restoring it to a restore point, leaving it overnight (maybe it would reconsider and agree to start up again) – all to no avail.  The only option was the radical one – restore to the settings it came with.  This means that all software installed after we got it was wiped.  Microsoft Office disappeared along with any other software – so my camera software, itunes etc. all gone.  We have had to re-purchase and re-install.
My monster cooker has also been fixed this week.  The element and the fan went.  There is only one company in Scotland that services La Canche cookers.  I am confident that this fact and the cost of the parts was information I was not given at the point of sale.  The engineer knows my cooker quite well now.  I even built a plinth on wheels for the cooker to sit on so that it can be wheeled in and out of its space when it needs fixed.  The good news is that my fan oven works again – the bad news is that with parts, labour and VAT – the bill was £477.  I was lucky – it had a 3 legged fan not a 4 legged fan.  The 4 legged fans are twice as much!
I wouldn’t say my kitchen is full of gadgets but I do have a few (quite a few actually) some of these do no more than use up cupboard space..  Many have been given to me as presents – which is lovely – but I occasionally issue a “no kitchen equipment for Christmas/Birthday” plea.  I seem to be one of those women who attract kitchen equipment presents.   Some women get jewellery and perfume and girly things – I am more likely to get a bread maker.  It’s not that I don’t love my kitchen stuff – I do.  One of my favourite things is the K-Mix food mixer I got for my Birthday this year.  All three children and my sister contributed to it and I love it and I use it several times a week.  I once got, as one of my Christmas presents, one of those rubber tubes that you rub garlic skin off with.  Last Christmas I suggested to my husband that he might like to buy me something pretty! 
One of the most bizarre presents I ever got was from my first husband on Valentines Day.  He presented me with a scientific calculator and when I asked why – he said “well – you needed one”.  Somehow I am obviously giving out the wrong messages!  I think my sister may be in a similar position.  A couple of months ago my brother in law dropped in on his way back from picking up a new car in Ayr.  He was driving back down to Essex so stayed overnight with us.  It was the week before my sister’s birthday and I had bought and wrapped her present for him to take back with him (it was a bread bin in case you were wondering – and yes that is what she asked for).  I asked him what he had bought for her and he said he had bought her something that she had wanted for ages.  It was … a washing line!  Now fair enough – it wasn’t just a line of plasticised rope – it was a special retractable line – but I felt I had to ask him if he was really sure that that was a good enough present.  He was confident that she would be delighted.
This week I have managed to make (successfully for the first time) meringues.  I know lots of people can produce meringues without a problem but the technique has eluded me.  I have tried all sorts of ways – including once “cooking” them in a hostess trolley - another gadget – very 70s – that I inherited from my parents.   It was a hideous teak effect thing that I only ever used to keep plates warm.  Thanks to my wonderful K-Mix mixer with its big whisk attachment I have made some successful brown sugar meringues.  I have also made some chocolate fudge/truffles.  Fudge is another thing I struggle to get right.  It comes out the wrong texture or tasting funny.  This week I cam upon a website called “Cooking for Engineers”   www.cookingforengineers.com it is a sort of Heston Blumenthal type of approach to cooking but less glamorous.  It is an American site and states “Detailed instructions on food and cooking for those who like to ask not just How?
but also Why?  Not exactly snappy but you get the idea. 
There is a fudge recipe on the site which I tried – and the product is actually quite good, and very easy to make.  It tastes like a cross between chocolate fudge and chocolate truffles.  I cut the fudge into little squares and rolled each piece in icing sugar before putting them in little food gift bags tied with ribbon.
Chocolate fudge
1lb of chocolate (I used dark)
4 tablespoons of butter
1 14oz can of condensed milk
Heat the butter and chocolate over a pan of water till melted, stir in the condensed milk and mix.
Pour the mixture into a square tin lined with baking parchment, refrigerate for 2 hours, cut into little squares.
So – I end the week poorer but with a working cooker, a working computer and having conquered the fear of meringues.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Birthday food

This is a birthday weekend.  My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow – Monday - so I made her a special dinner last night.   I had an idea of what I was going to make but I decided to ask her what she would like anyway.  She said” I don’t know – it’s difficult – when you go out to eat you get a menu, you are not asked just to tell the restaurant what you want to eat” 
So.. I did a menu ..
Birthday Menu

To start
Really special Prawn Cocktail
Calamari in Beer Batter

Or not?

Main Course
Individual Boeuf en Croute with glazed carrots and fondant potatoes
Steak with Frites
Lamb Kebabs with salad, tsaziki and Pitta

Crème Brule
Lemon Posset
Chocolate Torte

And she chose: Prawn Cocktail, Boeuf en Croute and Crème Brule. (and it was a no to the soup)
I love prawn cocktail but I absolutely hate the sad offerings that are served up under this guise in most restaurants.  I particularly hate the wet iceberg lettuce that makes up about two thirds of some of them.
This is my way of doing a prawn cocktail.
First make the marie rose sauce – 3 or 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, a splodge of tomato ketchup, a few drops of Tabasco , half a teaspoon of brandy, a squirt of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Next shred some salad leaves, nice mixed ones with a bit of flavour to them, mix in a couple of teaspoons of the sauce to coat the salad and make it stick together and either spoon into a glass or put in the middle of one of those rings that help you stack food up into circular piles. Take the ring away and place some nice big prawns round the salad.  Sprinkle a bit of cayenne pepper on top - Done

The cost of Fillet steak makes beef wellingtons something that you can’t have very often.  However .. If you use individual fillet steaks it makes it much cheaper and has the added advantage of everyone being able to have their steak done how they like it.  I love my steak medium rare and everyone else likes theirs well done.  This way I can have mine how I like it.  I also use an onion and mushroom reduction rather than pate to cover the fillet.  Finely chopped onion and mushroom cooked with a little butter for around 20 – 25 minutes until it has lost all the moisture makes a much nicer middle bit. 
I rub the fillets with brandy – sear them in a hot pan in a little butter and oil, let them cool, cover them in the mushroom mixture and wrap in a puff pastry sheet.  Brush with beaten egg and bake in a hot oven for 20 – 25 minutes.
I did a veggie version with roasted vegetables, little bit of tomato and basil sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and wrap in pastry.
Crème brule – simple and delicious.  Heat 500ml double cream with a vanilla pod (I like to scrape all the seeds out into the cream.  Beat 4 egg yolks with a tablespoon of caster sugar pour the cream into the eggs in a steady stream and put in a large bowl over a pan of barely boiling water.  Heat – stirring – till the cream coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Pour into little ramekins and chill.  When they are cold sprinkle with a layer of caster sugar and then heat with either a kitchen blowtorch or under the grill until the sugar has gone the colour of tortoiseshell.  Chill again before eating.
Today – my other daughter is making cupcakes for her sister – Birthday cupcakes.  There has been a bit of a cupcake disaster ... she has been in the kitchen for between 4 and 5 hours now and I can still hear the clash of cutlery on bowl.  The first lot (made using a different recipe to her usual) were a disaster and so she has gone out to the supermarket for more ingredients and has reverted to her trusted method.  I can’t even begin to tell you what my kitchen looks like right now.  It is amazing how far icing sugar can spread itself.  I may need a glass of wine!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Chicken and then more chicken

There are times when eating out is just one big disappointment!  The anticipation is rarely matched by what is delivered.  I have eaten lunch out twice this week and both times were definately underwhelming. 
Monday was a holiday here in some parts of Scotland so we went out for lunch.  Limited by what my son would eat (must expand that boy’s range of acceptable food!)– we went to Pizza Express.  They used to have a great salad with torn chicken, avocado, egg and dough sticks.   Unfortunately they don’t do it any more – so I had one with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, cheese and avocado but it was drowned in balsamic vinegar and that was all you could taste.  That evening I fancied some Kedgeree so I picked up some smoked haddock at the supermarket (could have been better) and we had a big pan of buttery kedgeree.
Tuesday I used up the left over roast chicken by making some pancakes and mixing the chicken into a creamy sauce with mushrooms, rolling up the mixture in the pancakes – topping them with some cheese and baking in the oven for 20 minutes.  Serve with a green salad.
Wednesday – we clearly are trying to eat our way through the European chicken mountain because we had more chicken.  Husband sometimes buys random meat and I could bet a month’s salary that it will be sausages, chicken or pork tenderloin in that carrier bag.   I won’t even bore you with how I prepared the chicken.  Even I , who really likes chicken can sometimes have had enough.  Having said that – chicken does make one more appearance in our week (Friday)
Thursday – Nothing in the house so – after picking my son up  (He does Combined Cadet Forces on a Thursday after school) I dropped by M&S on the way home.  My son – who usually wants to stay in the car whenever I stop off at a supermarket – decided that today he wanted to accompany me.  The thing about CCF day is that they go in their combats and big boots and on Thursday this week they had been practising camouflaging their faces.  So there I was trying to look like it was the most normal thing in the world to have my trolley pushed round M&S by a boy in camouflage gear with his face totally obscured by camouflage paint.  Small children were hiding behind their mothers in fear, staring!
That evening we had steak sandwich and salad with sautéed potatoes (had some new potatoes left over from earlier in the week which I sliced and sautéed).  Thin, flash fry steak in baguette spread with a little horseradish.
Friday – the reappearance of chicken – this time I was trying to recreate the pizza express salad and managed to do so successfully.  Bowl of salad topped with chicken breast that had been sliced and pan fried.  Avocado sliced on top, boiled egg cut in quarters in there too, some bits of shaved parmesan, a few cherry tomatoes, mix in some Caesar salad dressing and accompany with some dough balls and garlic butter to dip them in.  All prepared in 15 – 20 minutes.  The warm chicken makes the salad leaves wilt slightly.
Finally – the second eating out.  My daughters and I went to Costco on Saturday.  I go to Costco every couple of months and always spend far more than I intend.  I am always fascinated by what people have in their trolley.  There was one woman who bought 5 sets of salad bowl and servers.  I can only assume that is what everyone is getting from her for Christmas this year.  Costco also has some strange and random things for sale – this time what caught my eye was a Victorian style streetlamp.  You know the kind of thing – seen in films set in a foggy London street.  Who buys this stuff?
Anyway – the Costco bit is irrelevant – we decided to have some lunch on the way.  We headed for the west end and –for no good reason – decided to have lunch in Otto on Byres Road.  I would describe it as soulless in both atmosphere and food.  My fish and chips were overdone and greasy, the vegeburger was bland and tasteless apparently and the chicken burger wasn’t great either.  All in all a very lack lustre performance and so we have decided that the next time we have lunch out we will try the Two Figs at the bottom of Byres Road  - the menu looks really interesting and apparently it has the same owners as the Left Bank in Gibson street – which is always good.
That’s the problem with eating out – I object to paying for food that you could cook better yourself.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Where do all the teaspoons go?

Sometimes things just don’t go to plan!  Last week was one of those weeks.  But – I am woman – I can adapt.
Monday – week began without challenge to my sense of order – picked up a cabbage on my home from work.  I had a couple of gammon steaks in the fridge so I made some bubble and squeak cakes to go with them – and of course a fried egg. 
Eggs are the one food I couldn’t live without – followed closely by potatoes.  If I had to chose my “desert island discs” luxury item – it would be a constant supply of eggs (or some hens if that was allowed)
Tuesday didn’t go to plan.  I was going to do some pork tenderloin – but due to son ending up in A&E for most of the evening – I had to change the plan.... When we finally got home I dispatched husband to the fish and chip shop.  He-  asserting that he was not very hungry – not sure if he would actually get anything.  I told him to get me a small fish supper.  Clearly the sight and smell of fish and chips affected his decision as he came home with a small fish supper for me as requested and a “man versus food” portion for himself. 
If you have never seen man versus food – it is an American programme – title explains the premise... you wouldn’t think it could be in any way entertaining and – honestly, once is probably enough but for some reason my children have watched multiple episodes.  Sometimes I make pancakes and my son does a “James versus pancakes” session where he eats enough pancakes to feed a family of 6.  James always wins that contest – the pancakes always lose!
Wednesday – Pork tenderloin in cider and mustard sauce.  I used the pork that had been destined for Tuesday.  Ground up some fennel seeds, salt and pepper, mixed with some olive oil, cover slices of tenderloin in the oily mixture.  Sweat some onion in butter and a bit of oil add half a 330 ml bottle of cider (drink the rest – I hate waste!) and reduce by about half.  Add in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard – or more if you like – and a tablespoon of cream.  In a frying pan sear the pork slices in a bit of oil and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the pork to the sauce – or the sauce to the pork – who cares which way round – and it is ready to serve on a bed of rice – which we had – or with new potatoes.  I did some spinach to have with it.  Just wilted in a tiny bit of butter and cooked for a couple of minutes.
Thursday – Both daughters either late in or going to the gym or something – husband at an evening meeting so just me – or so you would think.  One thing I have noticed though is that despite the cries of “don’t worry about me – I’ll get a sandwich at the meeting” from husband, he can seem a bit miffed if there is nothing left fro him when he gets in.  So I usually put something in the oven to keep warm.  Thursday night is usually my dog training night.  My feeble attempt to get some discipline into the JRs.  I started with the best intentions but frankly by week two I was bored of the whole thing.  There is an awful lot of waiting for your turn to do something in a village hall that you can do in the comfort of your own home.   We tried agility last year and I found that tedious – as did Milo.  He had to wait for ages to get the opportunity to run through a tunnel and then wait again to do the same.  At least there is something in it for the dogs – bits of sausage.  So I made shepherd’s pie (my sister’s recipe).  My children used to come back from staying with her saying she made a much better one than me so I have adopted her recipe.  Sweat some onion in oil and butter, put the mince in and brown it.  Add a small tin of baked beans and a tin of sweetcorn, and some stock.  Cook for 20 minutes/half and hour put in a pie dish and top with either mashed or sliced potatoes and brown in the oven for half and hour.  Trust me – It seems a bit odd but it is really nice.
Friday - I made a lamb curry from my Nigella Lawson book Feast – I think it is the Maharaja’s lamb, some rice and home made naan.  I have experimented with naan recipes and ways of cooking them for ages.  I have cooked them in the oven, in the grill and now – I think I have found the best way.
7g sachet yeast
235 ml warm water
50g sugar
45 ml milk
1 egg
Pinch salt
Melted butter
Mix all the above together – knead for 5 – 10 minutes, let the dough rise for an hour, knock back and divide into about 10 – 14 balls which you flatten out with your hand stretching into a round shape – brush with melted butter and cook in a hot frying pan – both sides.  Keep warm in foil.
Saturday – Can you have too much of a good thing?  Not if it’s fresh fish.  Well that’s what I am telling myself.  Lovely fresh haddock – cut into chunks, dipped in seasoned flour and covered in beer batter.  Beer batter is the easiest thing in the world – 8oz flour and 10fl oz lager (drink the rest) whisk up and leave for 20 mins.  Dip the fish in and cook in hot oil in a frying pan.  Serve with chips and mushy peas. 
Sunday – We arrive back at roast chicken.  We must have roast chicken at least twice a month but I never tire of it.  But then I never tire of prawns, smoked salmon, slow roasted lamb shoulder, beef wellington, vichyssoise, eggs Benedict, jersey new potatoes, New York cheesecake, raspberries and so many other things.  As Sunday is pudding day – I made some little lemon possetts – one of my daughters all time favourite puddings and so easy to make.  Half a pint of cream heated up with 2 oz icing sugar, boil for a couple of minutes and cool.  Stir in the grated rind and juice of a lemon and pour into glasses or ramekins – put in the fridge to chill/set.  Serve with homemade shortbread.
So – that was our food week and it all begins again today.  Just realised I am out of frozen peas – better nip out and get some.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A week of food

Usual Saturday conversation with husband... “What would you like for dinner?” I ask. 
He pauses and looks around the room as though the answer will appear in a vision in the far corner.
“I don’t know” he says as though I have asked him a really hard question ... He throws some random words at me in the hope that one of them will be the right answer.  ”Chops?  Fish?  Something with rice?” 
Every weekend we act out this scene.  Me in the hope that just for once I won’t have to dream up every single meal eaten in this house, and him looking like I have asked him to find the God Particle
Realising that it was down to me again – I have settled on some home made southern fried chicken.  The chicken portions are – as I write – bathing in a marinade of buttermilk, chopped shallot/onion, chopped fresh coriander, chopped garlic, chopped red chilli.  I have no idea why – but not only does it make the chicken taste really good but it seems to make it more juicy too.  When I take the portions out of the marinade (which I will save in the freezer for another time) I will roll them in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, mustard powder, celery salt, paprika and cayenne pepper.    I will brown them in some oil and then put them in the oven for half an hour or so till they are crisp and browned.  It is an adaptation of an Antony Worrall Thomson recipe.  I will serve it with salad, some home made guacamole (squash an avocado, mash it up with some chopped tomato, chopped spring onion or red onion – whatever you have – a few drops of Tabasco, some lemon juice or if you prefer, lime juice, a bit of chopped coriander and some olive oil) potato salad and coleslaw.  The coleslaw is homemade – easy – just shred some white cabbage and mix in some mayo (I always use Hellmans and have found that the Hellmans light is every bit as good as the full fat version!.)  The potato salad has an Eliza Acton salad dressing on it.   Boil 3 eggs – take out the yolks and mix them with a tablespoon of water, some salt and pepper till they form a paste.  Add about 10 fl oz single (or double if you don’t have single) cream slowly until smooth and then add a tiny bit of cayenne and a tiny bit of white wine vinegar – about half a teaspoon.  I like to add some chives or chopped spring onion.  Pour onto cold cooked potatoes and put in the fridge until you are ready for it.  
Eliza Acton published her book Modern Cookery for Private Families in 1845.  It was one of the first cookery books aimed at the domestic reader rather than the professional cook.

What did we eat last week?  Well - last week the menu (actually menu hints at some kind of planning – which gives the wrong impression – it was much more random than that) was as follows:
Monday – Creamy Chicken Curry (using the leftover chicken from Sunday).  Another regular in our house.  A brilliant Delia Smith recipe for leftover chicken  – takes half and hour max .  Veggie option was a vegetable and chickpea curry – made with he leftover sour chickpeas from Saturday (Sour Chickpeas – a Madjur Jaffrey recipe and a favourite of my  daughter. If you make a pan full they will last a couple of days.  I sometimes make the leftovers into a soup but this time I added some veg (courgette, carrot, celery, onion) to the chickpeas – with a bit of veg stock and it was done in 15 mins.  I also had some leftover new potatoes in the fridge so I mad some spicy potatoes by crushing some garlic and adding half a teaspoon of turmeric, some salt and pepper, pinch of cayenne and a couple of tablespoons of water.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan when really hot (stand back and make sure you are wearing an apron) add the garlic/turmeric liquid and after it has stepped spitting pile the potatoes in and cook them till crispy.
Tuesday – Husband often comes back with random purchases (usually involving sausages – he never likes us to be without sausages to hand) this night he arrives home with some pork tenderloin.  I chop the pork into rounds and marinade briefly in mixture of honey, soy sauce, hoi sin sauce, tiny bit of chilli sauce and a splash of rice wine.  You can’t get rice wine in the supermarket – well I have never seen it in the supermarket – but you can get it in the Chinese supermarket down at the Chinatown shopping mall in New City Road in Glasgow. 
There is a fishmonger’s down there, on the corner, called The Golden Trawler.  It was recommended to me by the orthodontist – she and her parents go there all the time so I decided to give it a go.  My daughter and I headed down there for the first time one Saturday about six months ago.  I have never experienced a fishmonger like it!!  Firstly my daughter wouldn’t set foot inside as she could see a tank with the sign – “LIVE EELS” on it so she stayed outside, a safe distance from the offending eels.
The shop is small but was heaving with people – most of them Asian – who all seemed to know what they were looking for.  I felt very inept.  I don’t think you can do this shop unless you know what you are doing.  It is the closest thing to standing on the side of the harbour and getting your fish off a boat as you can get.  I wanted some monkfish and some squid but I almost left without buying anything.  Inside the shop are large white polystyrene boxes full of a huge range of fish most of which I had never seen before.  The only labels are in Chinese and if you can’t recognise your fish in its original unfilleted state then you are struggling.  The look on my face must have been a dead giveaway because I was approached by one of the fishmongers – a young Chinese man who realised with obvious amusement that I was struggling.  I explained that I was after some squid and some monkfish.  He explained that I had to buy a whole squid and a whole monkfish.   I picked out the smallest of each (they were huge) and he filleted the monkfish for me – but as far as the squid was concerned – I was on my own with that!  The fish is lovely – it is really fresh, a good price and they have a huge variety on sale but its not for the fainthearted.  Make sure you know what your fish looks like and I would suggest that, because you have to buy in larger quantities that in an ordinary fishmonger, going with someone else and going halves would be a good idea.

One of my chees souffles from last Sunday - after its first cooking - ready to be turned out and cooked again

Anyway – that was a small diversion from the pork recipe.  Back to the pork... After marinating I stir fried the pork with some spring onions chopped into inch long sections and served it with rice and a veg stir fry (mainly for veggie daughter) consisting of chopped carrot, peppers, spring onion, mushroom and cabbage with a tiny bit of chilli sauce and a tiny bit of soy sauce chucked in.
Wednesday – Veggie daughter out for dinner so we had smoked haddock fishcakes (not home made – there are some things that I don’t make from scratch and fish cakes are one of those things). Served on salad with a poached egg on top and accompanied by a baked potato.
Thursday – This was an evening that didn’t go to plan.  I needed to be out by 7.45 to get to dog training at 8 but I made the mistake of trying a new way of doing Toad in the Hole.  Big mistake – I should have stuck to what I know works.  Stupidly I decided that instead of doing the sausages separately form the Yorkshire pudding as I usually do, I would do them all in one big roasting tin.  It took FOREVER to cook.  Normally I do the Yorkshires in a muffin tray – serve little individual ones beside the sausages and baked beans and it is all done within 20 mins – half an hour.  It took so long to cook that I didn’t get to dog training in the end.  Not that I am that devastated – I find it really quite boring.   Had a glass of wine instead!
Friday - Burger and chips night.  Home made beef burgers and home made chips.  I think I must be one of the only people who still uses an old fashioned chip pan.  I cannot be doing with oven chips.  I would rather eat the packaging they come in.  I admit that I do buy curly fries and little potato lattices called crosscuts from Lidl – the children love them but I don’t think you can beat real chips.  I keep thinking that I should get a deep fat fryer but I am not convinced that it would make better chips than my plain old fashioned chip pan.  My beef burgers are made with Steak mince mixed with finely chopped half an onion, a desert spoon of pinhead oatmeal (helps keep them together), salt and pepper and a beaten egg.  Form into burger shapes, drizzle a little oil over each and fry in a hot frying pan till they are done to your liking.  I like mine still able to Moo – husband likes his cooked right through.  Put each one into a sesame bun and cover with a slice of cheese  (whatever you like – one of my favourites is Port Salut) which will melt over the burger.  Serve with salad and chips.  My chips are twice cooked.  I peel  Maris Piper or Dink Edward or Golden Wonder (you can’t seem to get Golden Wonder in supermarkets but you can get them in Roots and Fruits on Great Western Road, Glasgow) and cut into chips.  Rinse in water and then drain/dry.  When the oil in the chip pan is around 140C put a batch in and cook till the sort of float to the top but aren’t brown. – around 5 minutes should do it.  Drain on greaseproof paper and do the next batch.  When you are ready to serve – heat the oil to 160C and refry the chips.  They will brown quickly so don’t take your eye off them.  Drain on greaseproof paper and serve.
I am planning slow roasted shoulder of pork tomorrow. Not sure how I will do it yet but working on some ideas.
I think my love of food and cooking comes from my childhood – but not in the way you think.  Some people are brought up in homes in which their mother made amazing food and they have inherited passed down recipes.  Not in my case!  My mother struggled to boil an egg.  I think she could knock out a roast chicken of sorts and probably a squeaky pork chop but more than that – forget it!  I can remember coming home from school when I was about 8 and dinner was a bowl of tinned macaroni cheese (Heinz) or a bowl of tinned ravioli.  I couldn’t eat that ravioli now if my life depended on it! 
I went to boarding school at the age of 10 and that really teaches you to eat what is in front of you.  The alternative is to be hungry.  Some of the food was OK but there was never enough of it.   One of the best things was morning break.  Even now – some 41 years on – I can still remember that we had yellow iced buns with lemon curd on a Monday, Long iced buns with white icing on a Tuesday (we called them ballet shoes) Doughnuts on a Wednesday, Currant buns on a Thursday and jam tarts on a Friday.  I didn’t really like jam tarts so I swapped my jam tart on a Friday for someone’s yellow iced bun.  So I got two buns on a Monday.  Sweets were strictly rationed and because I lived in the Middle East it was difficult for me to bring much back to school in my suitcase.  Besides – the chocolate in Bahrain was the American Hershey stuff and had usually gone white with damage from the heat.  Not very appetising. 
At home – during the holidays we had our meals prepared by a cook who was Indian.  There was a small building out the back of our house which was the cook’s quarters.  One of our cooks managed to blow himself up – I think he had some kind of gas stove in there.  All British families had a cook – that was the way of things.  I never really thought about it much at the time but now I think back – what a wasted opportunity to learn about other food!!  The expat wives would often poach cooks from each other or, if a family left and went back to England, if their cook was any good there would be a race to see who could take them on.  The strange thing is that the measure of a good cook was their ability to turn out a good shepherd’s pie, a roast and a fruit crumble – just what we need in 40 degree heat! 
When you think about it that was a complete waste – there they were with an Indian cook who could probably make the most amazing real authentic Indian food and they taught them to make a shepherds pie.  I suppose it isn’t all that surprising when you consider that in the 1970s a Vesta curry was considered adventurous cuisine.   I can remember occasionally being invited to the homes of some of the Arab Directors of the bank my stepfather worked for and being amazed at the delicious food.  Meanwhile back at our house our Indian cook was probably struggling with the strange concept of steak and kidney pie.
It wasn’t until I was in my late teens/early twenties that I began to experiment with cooking and discovered what a pleasure it was.  My first cookery book was Robert Carriers Dishes of the World.  I have more cookery books now than I have space for – but I don’t think it is possible to have too many!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

My first posting

I'm just off to put a chicken in the oven - but before I do ...
This is the first posting on my blog.  Although I have been thinking about doing this for some time I haven't actually had the time to sit down and do it - till now.

My idea for the blog is to share a description of what we have for dinner every week so that people who - like me sometimes have no idea how to

a) make a given amount of money (around £150/week in my case) stretch across the week

b) think up imaginative, varied and healthy food to put on the table

c) get something from raw ingredients to on the table within an hour of getting through the front door.

Firstly let me tell you about my family.

I live near Glasgow - with my husband, my three children (two girls, one boy) and my two Jack Russells - who want a walk as soon as I get in. 

Here they are at the study window waiting for someone to come home.

My husband finds the whole idea of cooking very stressful - I may as well ask him to split the atom and anyway he has the palate of a labrador ... If I fed him pedigree chum he would probably wolf it down and say "that was very nice".

One of my daughters is a vegetarian so every meal has to include   a veggie alternative and my son is such a fussy eater that there is a limited list of things that he will eat.  I really think he believes that tomato ketchup is one of his 5 a day.

Of course - I should have dealt with that years ago and made sure that he ate whatever was put in front of him - second world war style - you have two choices take it or leave it - but I didn't have the energy for that.  When child number three comes along - whether it is because you are exhausted or just more in touch with reality - you are much more likely to let them get away with it.

To be fair though - he will eat most vegetables and fruit he is presented with and his favourite family meal is roast chicken - which we often have on a Sunday.

So today we are having
Roast Chicken, crushed and roasted in sunflower oil potatoes (vegetarian) carrots, peas, bread sauce and gravy.

Vegetarian alternative is
Twice baked cheese souffle (with above potatoes and veg) - this is a Delia Smith recipe - for twice baked goats chees souffles from her vegetarian cookery book but I use red Leicester and it is just as good.

Pudding is
Apple strudel (baked in a lasagne dish - it is much easier to handle than the rolled version)

I want my blog to be useful (and entertaining) to people who like me have to feed the family week on week without slipping into the - "if its Monday it must be shepherd's pie" - trap

I hope to share lots of my favourite and adapted recipes from my recipe books - you can never have too many recipe books - and hope that you will try them.

So ... I have some cheese souffles to make - so better crack on.