Monday, 29 February 2016

MPM: 29th February 2016

Huh. So you know that I said that last week we were eating down the freezer in preparation for an influx of meat? Well, said meat didn't arrive when it was supposed to arrive. The good people of Westin Gourmet will be feeling my wrath this morning. And by wrath I mean that I will be phoning up and murmuring very politely that I was slightly disappointed that I had ordered something for a certain date and they haven't, you know, fulfilled their end of the bargain and I hate to be a pain but, you know, could they please let me know when I can expect all my meat to turn up (thankyouplease). Yeah, I'm quite British when it comes to being wrathful on the phone.

Still living in hope that we shall be awash with meat at some point this week, we have another round of freezer diving planned, with a couple of other top notch dishes thrown in for good measure. On Thursday, I am taking la mere out for afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols, so a nice, light bowl of soup is all that will be required in the evening. Other than that, the week looks fairly uneventful. Hurrah for a quiet life!

So, this is what the menu plan looks like:

Tuna steaks with wasabi and lime mayonnaise in brioche buns with oven baked French fries (from the freezer) on the side
Cholent (from the freezer) with crusty bread for dunking
Fish pie
Caribbean chicken soup (from the freezer)
Oxtail and chorizo stew (from the freezer) with mashed potato
Vada pav (Mumbai potato "burgers") with okra fries - D is aiming to recreate a dish from our beloved Bundobust. Nothing in this dish is coming from the freezer.

Have a good week's eating friends! And wish me luck in my Meat Mission...

Friday, 26 February 2016

Sloth

I have never been a big fan of exercise, being more akin to a sloth than any other creature in God's green Earth.  My nickname is not Sleepy Slouj for nothing.

Sloth.  Or me?  Image taken from https://gifts.worldwildlife.org
What I really want though (really, really, want) is to have a healthy, balanced approach to not just food but life in general, and exercise and fitness have to play a part in that, however much I would like to hide away from it (preferably in a pillow fort with my cat).

Recently, a friend of mine (well, I suppose officially she is a friend of D's but I am nicking her because she is the only person I know who gets as overexcited as me at the prospect of a Space NK discount code) tentatively suggested going to a class at the local fitness centre, on the strict proviso that we stand at the back.  The class in question was Clubbercise, which is basically just prancing around in the semi dark with disco lights and glow sticks.  It is waaaay more fun than doggedly stomping away on a treadmill.  And, subsequently, we have tried Aqua Aerobics (which I also love although have to spend most of the class attempting to stop my boobs making a break for freedom) and Kick Fit (great stress reliever).

I won't go so far as to say that I am a gym bunny, but I do find classes to be quite motivating and it is lovely to have someone to go with.  I have gone so far as to sign up for a monthly membership (the rolling kind which can be cancelled at any point - I know myself and the limits to my enthusiasm pretty well).  I'm very unfit at the moment, but I hope a few weeks of regular attendance will see a marked improvement.  Now that the weather is becoming distinctly more spring like, I'm hoping to get my walking boots on and if I could get up a hill without sounding like The Little Engine That Could, I would count that as a major achievement.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Recipe corner: American style chocolate chunk cookies

Picture courtesy of zazzle.co.uk  How cute is this fabric? 
I sometimes think that people (and I most definitely include myself in that all encompassing term) have forgotten what a treat actually is.

A treat is not something to be consumed every day - certainly not in any quantity. It is something to be anticipated, something to savour, something special.

When I was a young kid, sweets were for weekends and fizzy drinks for high days and holidays. The only pudding we tended to have during the week, if at all, was yoghurt. And then oh, the giddy joy at going to the sweet shop on a Friday to pick out the evening's delicacy (rhubarb and custards, or Munchies, or the wonderous thing that is a Caramac) or the pleasure taken in the sponge pudding or a crumble after Sunday lunch.

As I got older, of course this was less enforceable and, being a teenager with a remarkably sweet tooth, visits to the school tuck shop were a pretty standard part of the day. But now, as I get older still, I quite like the idea of going back to that mentality where a treat is not for every day. I want that sense of anticipation, and that sense of specialness that makes sweetmeats all the sweeter.

So I made cookie dough and shaped it into a log and I wrapped it in cling film and consigned it to the freezer so that I can bake up a slice from frozen every now and again. An oozing, chocolatey cookie, soft in the centre with a suspicion of crunch around the edge, headily scented with vanilla and on the verge of being slightly too sweet, that sort of cookie definitely falls into the treat category. Especially if consumed within minutes of coming out of the oven so it is still warm and the chocolate is liquid and smudges your fingers. I do not intend to bake up a cookie every day. But, if I am going to make my treats really count, this is definitely the way to go.

Use any kind of chocolate you like. I'm thinking about making the next batch with Smarties.

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
Tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g chocolate, chopped into chunks

Cream together the butter and the sugar until soft and fluffy. Stir in the egg and the vanilla extract.

Sieve the flour and the baking powder into the mix, add the salt and stir and, finally, fold through the chocolate chunks. The mixture should be soft and malleable, like Playdoh.

Spread a large piece of cling film on the work surface and tip out the cookie dough. Use your hands to push the mixture together and shape it like a log. Then wrap the clingfilm round and roll it, so the log rounds out and becomes a sausage. Freeze.

When coming to bake, preheat the oven to 170. Use a sharp knife to take off a slice of dough - any size you like but the log should yield at least 12. Sit in on baking paper on a tray in the oven for 11 minutes. When you take it out the middle will still looked uncooked, but it will become former as it cools. The edges should just be turning golden brown.

Wait a few minutes (anticipation, remember?) and then dive in, face first. Heave a contented sigh.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Recipe corner: Vietnamese style braised pork with vegetable fried rice

Believe me when I say that you have to make this dish.  I mean, I know that I probably say that about all of them but this one is an absolute must cook.

In the last few years, D and I have made an effort to make more Sunday roasts.  I love a Sunday roast, I really do, but it is one of those things that I didn’t make myself until I was well into my twenties.  And there is no question that it can be a bit of a faff; the individual processes may be easy, but timing everything to be ready together is less so and the whole faffiness is exacerbated when you are working with a tiny kitchen and a distinct lack of dishwasher.   Nevertheless, it is a proud British tradition and one that we have tried to embrace at least a couple of times a month.

What is also a proud British tradition (at least, it certainly was for my grandparents and probably my parents too) is “leftovers day” when the remainder of the joint is served up for supper in cunning disguise. I love leftovers day as much, if not more, than I love the roast.  Sometimes, I’ll just opt for cold meat with a side dish, or even sandwiches (roast beef and horseradish sandwiches are a thing of beauty and joy forever) but I have been trying to get a bit more clever.  That is where this recipe comes in.

In the top five countdown of roasting joints, pork has always scored fairly low for us – there is nothing wrong with pork but it’s not a favourite.  D has now declared that pork must move higher up the rotation of roasts so that we can make this leftovers dish on a regular basis.  And who am I to deny him.

We spied this recipe on the Guardian site (an excellent resource for foodies – so many interesting recipes to browse through) where the author in turn adapted it from a recipe book, and so the recipe Chinese whispers go on.  I reduced it down to two portions (while upping the meat quotient slightly) and served with a lovely stir fried veg and egg rice, which I am expect is entirely non Vietnamese but was just what I fancied and worked terribly well. 

Ingredients

200g cold roast pork, chopped into chunks

Tsp. black peppercorns
Tsp. coarse salt
Tsp. soft brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic
Shallot, finely chopped
Tbsp. fish sauce

2 tsp. soft brown sugar
100ml boiling water
100ml coconut milk

90g basmati rice
Selection of stir fry veg (I used spring onions, baby corn and sugar snap peas)
Clove of garlic, crushed
Tbsp vegetable oil
Medium egg
Pinch of chilli flakes
Splash of fish sauce

In a pestle and mortar, bash together the peppercorns, salt, one teaspoon of the sugar and the garlic until it forms a murky looking paste.   Stir this, along with the shallot, through the pork and set aside while you make the caramel. 

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place the remaining two teaspoons of sugar over a low heat.  Resist the urge to stir but swirl the pan from time to time to ensure that it is melting evenly.  Meanwhile, stick the kettle on to boil, weigh your rice into the bottom of a steamer pan and slice your veg to suit.  Keep half an eye on the sugar as it will go from caramel to sticky, burnt mess very quickly.

Once the caramel is golden brown and liquid, add the boiling water.  It will bubble up, so exercise a degree of caution.  Allow to bubble frantically for a couple of minutes and then add the coconut milk.  Stir briskly to combine and then throw in the pork and combine everything well.  Reduce
the heat as low as it will go and simmer for around ten minutes.

Cover the rice in water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.  Once it is boiling, turn the heat down and put the veg, in a steamer basket, over the boiling water.  Cover.

After five minutes, remove the vegetables.  Re-cover the rice and turn the heat off.  Allow it to steam for a further five or so minutes until cooked through. 

Heat the oil in a wok or large pan and stir fry the lightly steamed vegetables.  After a couple of minutes, stir through the crushed garlic and cook a little more until the garlic smell has lost its raw edge.  While these are cooking, lightly beat your egg with seasoning and chilli flakes.

Once the veg are beginning to soften but still retain some bite, you can stir through the rice.  Then, make a well in the centre and pour in the egg.  Once it has started to lightly set, mix through the rest of the ingredients.  Add a splash of fish sauce and check the seasoning. 

Check the seasoning of the pork as well – you may need to add more sugar or more fish sauce to get the sweet / salt balance just to your liking (although I found that these measurements worked perfectly).

Serve, and thank goodness for roast dinners and leftovers.

Monday, 22 February 2016

MPM: 22nd February 2016



Certain eagle eyed readers (hello, Mum!) will have noticed that there was a recipe for Vietnamese braised pork up here at the end of last week which has now vanished, for which I wholeheartedly blame the Blogpress app. I went in to correct a spelling and it did something funky to the formatting of the entire piece. Perhaps it is progressive - perhaps it believes that this is the way that blogs of the future are supposed to look, with varying line lengths and weirdly floating margins but I say, NO. And I deleted the app in a fit of pique and returned the blog post to draft status until I can get to a computer to rectify that damage / questionable style decisions. 

I suppose the actual lesson is to proof read things properly in the first place and to try and pretend to be a proper writer as opposed to someone who just dashes off stuff in between bites of the Real Life cherry. That's how bloggers get book deals, people. Although, I am most disappointed to note that despite the fact I have spiralised every week since the turn of the year and baked spelt bread I have not suddenly developed flawless skin, swishy hair, tight buns, a six figure readership and a similarly pearly toothed agent. Disappointing.

So, this week's meal is mainly courtesy of the murky depths of our freezer. Last week I ordered a hamper of meat from an online butcher because it was too good an offer to turn down. I now have to work out how to store said hamper of meat when it turns up on the doorstep next Friday. To this end, D and I had the shelves of the freezer out on the kitchen floor today trying to do an inventory cum tidy up. 

D is out on Thursday so I will have one of my favourite quick suppers - filled tortellini (from the freezer, bien sur) tossed with butter, Parmesan and lots of black pepper. We're both out for dinner on Friday and Sunday is, as yet, unplanned. Elsewhere this week:

Cullen skink 
Leftover lamb biryani with cucumber raita and homemade flatbreads
Sausage and bean casserole
Steak (from afore mentioned meat hamper) and oven baked French Fries

More meal planning shenanigans to be found over at Mrs M's.

Monday, 15 February 2016

MPM: 15th February 2016

It is Sunday afternoon as I write this and Sounds of the Seventies is on in the background. Satisfyingly Sundayish. This weekend has mainly been about cooking - a four course Valentine's extravaganza last night (very good, if I do say myself and which probably merits a blogpost of its own) and pottering with the Sunday roast today. So far, I've parboiled potatoes, and made herby carrot mash and cauliflower cheese to accompany the pork shoulder. Frankly, I don't think we'll need the meat.

So, what does this week look like meal planning wise?

I'm out on Thursday - off down to London to see Matthew Perry's play. Yes, I know the review have been awful, but I was a teenager in the nineties and convinced that I was going to end up Mrs Matthew Perry (or, more accurately, Mrs Chandler Bing). I couldn't not see it, and even though I will spend eight hours getting there and back on a National Express coach, I am squeeingly excited. D will have to fend for himself.

We had chilli scheduled for Saturday but might need to eat down the freezer a bit before attempting to squeeze another batch cook in there. Otherwise, we have:

Leftover chilli crab cakes (from Saturday night) with salady bits
A mussel spaghetti, similar in style to this one to use up some leftover mussels (from Saturday night. Are you sensing a theme?)
Vietnamese style braised roast pork with vegetable egg fried rice
Mackerel fillets with a giant couscous salad
Roast lamb

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Cinnamon raisin spelt bread and Mercer's preserves

So if you find yourself at the BBC Good Food Spring Show (hard to say after an afternoon on the gin) in Harrogate this April one of the lovely stalls will be run by the good people of Mercer's of Yorkshire. A Yorkshire based company run by a husband and wife, they sell a lovely selection of preserves and sauces. Having been sampling their delectable lemon curd and onion marmalade (not necessarily together) this month, I can confirm that they are definitely worth checking out.

I was particularly taken with the lemon curd which is a real favourite of mine but one of those things that I never bother to make myself because other people do it so well. When we were kids, my brother wouldn't eat "jam with bits" - i.e. pretty much all jam - so we tended to get through a lot of lemon curd (and seedless raspberry which to my mind now is something of a travesty). Standard Saturday breakfast was baguette slathered with butter and curd and very lovely it was too.

Given my recently discovered mania for bread making, I decided to bake a loaf which would work with both of these products. Spelt flour is slightly harder to work with than the standard stuff but it yields a gorgeous, nutty tasting loaf with a slightly cakey texture that toasts well. I would recommend spreading thickly with soft goats' cheese before dolloping on the onion marmalade - the cinnamon and raisin combo really complements the salt / sweet / sour flavour profile. Equally, just spread thickly with curd and perhaps a little creme fraiche, it is utterly delectable.

Ingredients

250g wholemeal spelt flour (if you can't find it in your local supermarket, Holland and Barratt or similar health food stores stock it)
Tsp salt
Tsp fast acting yeast
Tsp sugar
Tsp ground cinnamon
30g raisins
Tbsp vegetable oil (I like rapeseed)
200ml cool water (you may not use all of it)

This is a sticky dough, so best made in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment. If you make it by hand, prepare to get messy.

Tip your flour, raisins, cinnamon and sugar into the mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side of the mixture and the yeast to the other so they're not touching. I don't know the specific reason for this, but Paul "Silver Fox" Hollywood tells me that never the twain shall meet and I believe him.

Set the mixer on to its lowest setting and pour in the oil and then gradually add the water. You'll need somewhere between 150ml and the free amount - enough for the mixture to come together in a shaggy dough. Once it has formed a rough ball, ratchet up the mixer and let it do its thang for about 5 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky, but elastic.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and prove for an hour.

Grease or line a loaf tin and tip in the proved dough. Give it a second prove for twenty five minutes. It's obviously working on a very hard theorem. While this second prove is going ahead, preheat the oven to 200.

Bake for around 30 mins, or until the internal temperature has reached around 200 degrees. Allow to cool slightly before falling on it armed with butter knife and topping of choice.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Look!

The BBC Good Food Spring Blogging Community website is now live! It's here! There's me!

I'll be sharing a recipe with you this weekend which works beyootifully with a couple of the lovely Yorkshire preserves that I received to try this month so be sure and keep you eyes peeled (peeled I tell you!) for that. And do check out all the other blogs on the list (but remember that I'm your favourite...)

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Of cabbages, kings, diets and...fried chicken

The very lovely Steph has been writing a lot recently about CBT with relation to food and eating disorders and it makes for interesting reading. I was particularly struck by what she has to say about being a WW member and how it contributed to having a wacky approach to food because it has been on my mind of late.

The holy grail of the diet world is two fold - to be a healthy weight AND to have a relaxed relationship with food. At the moment, it feels like when I am NOT following WW, but just eating in a natural, instinctive, normal way, I hit point number two. I maintain my weight without difficulty, I gravitate towards a balanced diet, my portions are sensible, my appetite regulated. The moment I start up with the pointing, that goes out of the window. Food is defined as good or bad depending on whether it fits into that day's allowance. Days are also defined as good or bad - or perhaps on or off is a better term. When you're on, it's fine, but when you're off, you spend the time in a sort of feeding frenzy, consuming all the foodstuffs you won't be able to have when you're back on, whether or not you really fancy them at this point in time.

Is this making sense to anyone but me?

The problem I have at the moment is that to be mentally healthy, I don't think following a diet plan (this sort of issue is by no means exclusive to WW) is the right thing to do. But to be in better physical health, I need to be slimmer - no two ways about it. And I don't know how to balance both. I'm trying something a bit different at the moment but I don't want to say too much until I've given it a fair shot. I'm planning to stick with it for the next six weeks (which also happens to be Lent) and assess where I'm at come Easter, at which point I will share more with you.

Right, that's that.

In other news, our quest to find the best brunch venue in Leeds may be at a premature end because I can't imagine anything beating this:


It's Korean fried chicken with wild rice, kimchi and pickled cucumber topped with a crispy fried egg and it is served at a recently opened venue called Ox Club. The menu is DREAMY. But even in the face of such delights as ricotta pancakes with honeycomb and berries, or corned beef and kale hash, both D and I had to order the chicken and neither of us could stop making yummy noises the entire time that we were eating it. The service is friendly but laid back to the point of almost comatose - I wouldn't recommend this place if you like to be in and out quickly. But if you're happy to linger over coffee (which I think is fine at brunch) then go! Eat fried chicken for breakfast! Be glad you live in such a decadent age!

Monday, 8 February 2016

MPM: 8th February 2016

I wonder if the fact that Chinese New Year, Pancake Day and Valentine's Day have fallen in the same week this year is an indication of some sort of forthcoming Foodie Apocalypse. Certainly, it spells Likely Doom for the dieter hoping for a good result on the scales. And also Not Much Fun for people who have schlepped over here to read an entertaining meal planning post.

So in between Chinese food (we're going to Red Chilli in Leeds which has featured on this blog before - it's fab), pancakes (bacon and maple syrup or lemon juice and sugar?) and a three course romantic extravaganza, what will we be eating? Not much! We have the remains of a roast chicken in the fridge so I can see us just grazing on that throughout the week. By Sunday, we will probably have eschewed cutlery altogether and just be chewing happily at the carcass. Nice.

For actual meal planning, do, please feel free to check out the lovely people over at Mrs M's.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Random

I have recently been going through the photos on my phone and deleting them to create some storage space - the iPad is their home now. One of my plans for this year is to actually get some physical copies printed and do some scrap-booking. How quaint.

My photos can be divided into broadly three categories: Minx, Food and Other. Given that Minx spends 85% of her time asleep, I am not sure exactly why I have ended up with so many pictures of her. But then she is very beautiful.


I have a soft spot for this one because it was actually saved from the Cat Protection League's website - this was the shot they used in her bio and, so, the first picture that I ever saw of her. She looks so scared and sad here, doesn't she? Very different from the contented, purring bundle of fur that is curled up next to me as I write.

There is a sub category of Other which could best be described as "Shots of D where he is trying to pretend that he is not being photographed". I like these (and note the edge of a thumb creeping in to the top left hand corner of the shot).


But the number of food pictures - ridiculous. Particularly since some of them, I no longer remember what or where they are. Here we have a very pretty, but entirely random, cup of something with something else on the side.


Sometimes it must have been home cooked dishes that I intended to blog but failed in doing so. I can only assume that is why I have a picture of what I think is baked eggs and toast:


And another of sea bass (?) with parsnips (?) and garlic (?). This was one of D's and I'll bet he never wrote the recipe down so it will never be recreated exactly.  And what is the beige mush next to the roasted garlic cloves?  I seem to recall that this was a delicious plate of food and I'm now intrigued.


Sometimes it's restaurants that, again, I meant to write about but didn't. These are from our first trip to Homage to Fromage but they're no good for a review now because I haven't got a scooby what the dish on the left is:


Or what any of these cheeses are:


Although for all that, if you are in or around Leeds and like cheese then it comes highly recommended.  You have to really like cheese though - the menu does not cater for the lactose intolerant.

So it's been a pleasant (if slightly random) trip down memory lane, going through all of these and the lessons we take from it are - er, make notes, write up blog posts when you say you're going to do so and never serve up beige mush.  The other lesson is take photography lessons.  It is slightly disappointing to realise that my photography skills have remained so consistently terrible throughout the years.  Perhaps if I ever win the lottery, I can employ the very talented Lesley to take photos for me full time?

Anyway, I'm now off to delete all said random food pictures. A cull. A purge, if you will.  Which, clearly, will leave me with plenty of memory space for more adorable cat shots...

Monday, 1 February 2016

MPM: 1st February 2016





Greetings, fellow meal planners! Welcome to the month of February! Hopefully it will be slightly less damp than January...

Speaking of January, it was not a good month for British icons with the death of Terry Wogan yesterday completing a triumvirate of loss across music, film and broadcasting.



I was fans of them all. The funny thing when a celebrity dies, especially one like Terry Wogan who you think you actually know by virtue of his presence in your car or at your breakfast table week in and week out, is that it feels a bit like losing a friend. I felt disproportionately gloomy all day yesterday.

Anyway, setting maudlinisms aside, on with meal planning. D is out a couple of nights this week - Minx and I have no particular plans and may well eat beans on toast (NTS: do cats eat beans?) Other than that:

Smoked mackerel and chorizo potatoes with a peppery watercress salad
Caribbean chicken soup
Spicy sausage rice (from Gordon Ramsay's "Ultimate Cookery Course")
Roast chicken with all the necessary trimmings

I was also planning on making a delicious sounding honey roast root veg salad from January's "Delicious" magazine, but we have quite a lot of odds and ends of cheese in the freezer, so may throw together some sort of cheese pasta dish with those. We'll see.

More meal planning fun, as ever, over at Mrs M's.