Monthly Archives: August 2010

Food for the fragile

I woke  to the sound of rain drumming on the tin roof and then shortly after was rudely awoken by Mr T asking if we had any ibuprofen!  After getting slightly battered on the rugby field yesterday and then even more battered on beers at the bar, he was in need of some painkillers.  The weather was grey, grey, grey outside this morning.  As I write this now the sun is attempting to break through but I’m not holding out much hope. 

So what do I do when the weather is sad…I cook.  And what do I do when Mr T is sad…I cook.   Big hearty, lumpy, stodgy bowls of steaming hot scrumptiousness.  I whipped up a quick chorizo and tomato omelette just to ease us into the day and accompany our coffees and now I’m off  to buy ingredients for supper.   

I have decided on a chicken and barley soup with fresh spring veg (not quite spring).  My lazy ways mean that I’ll chuck a chook in the oven on some chopped up carrots, onion and celery and a handful of garlic cloves.  Roast it to juicy, crispy perfection and then reserve all those yummy juices.  Pop the juices in a pot with the roast onion and garlic and some extra chicken stock, I’ll add a handful of barley and simmer til cooked.  Meanwhile, I’ll tear the meat off the bones and probably eat all of the skin and half of a leg whilst I’m at it.  Then I’ll add some young broccoli, sugar snap peas, baby carrots and the chicken.  In just a minute or two the veggies will be just cooked and still fresh and crunchy.  If that doesn’t fix Mr T, I don’t know what will. 

And more for me than Mr T, I’m going to make a steaming pot of rice pudding using a recipe we tried at college this week.  It is wonderful and creamy with just a hint of ground mace to excite the rice.  It reminds me of being back at high school;  my friend Miss A always had the most exciting packed lunches which entailed little bowls of pasta salad and tiny containers of her mum’s wonderful rice pudding.  I would beg her for just a mouthful as we sat outside on the steps next to the hockey pitch and then I realised if I paid her one pound, I’d get the whole pot of rice pudding and she’d merrily go the ice cream van to buy lollies and crisps.  She thought that she’d robbed me blind but I would have happily paid two pounds for that little container of pudding.  Oh the memories…  I better get to the shops before I start salivating on the keyboard!

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Sweet sunny Sunday

As I opened my eyes and rolled over in bed, I knew it was too soon to get up.  My brain felt like it had been soaked in a bath of red wine, jingled around whilst playing a ridiculous game of ping pong and then tackled by a team of rugby players.  Which is pretty much what had happened the previous night.  And now my hangover was doing a pretty good job of trying to ruin my Sunday, alas, I know the drill.  Go back to sleep for at least two hours, eat a pie with ketchup, drink a big coffee, have a shower and put your face on and then…shake it off. 

My idea of shaking off a hangover is to indulge in yet more food and more wine at my favourite Sunday lunch spot.  Mr T and I have spent the last few Sundays going out to the McHenry Farm Shop to indulge in delicious little lunches.  However, yesterday was not a little lunch.  We invited some great friends along to lunch and the sun was obediently shining so the day was looking promising at last.  My stoic friends kicked off with a wine tasting, I was not yet ready to taste the naughty nectar, not for at least five more minutes anyway.  So, we settled into our sunny spot on the patio with a bottle of Rocky Road Chardonnay and some charcuterie.  We ordered a pork, pistachio and cranberry terrine which I have eaten there many times and always enjoy.  Especially the wonderful little pickles which accompany the charcuterie, deliciously spiced little carrot batons are a treat in their own right.  Trying to encourage certain members of our group to indulge in ‘Pig in a box’ was a challenge.  ‘Pig in a box’ was a terrine made from the pig’s head and it was very flavoursome meat with the perfect amount of seasoning and spice.  We polished off a cheeky bowl of duck fat potatoes just to get us in the mood for the main course.

Everyone else was very restrained with their ordering and opted for soups and salads but I went the whole hog (bad and inaccurate pun) and ordered the lamb rump with duck fat potatoes (yes more duck fat), wilted spinach and celeriac puree.  And my was I glad that I did.  Forgive me; I am about to indulge in a rant about just how much flavour their ethically farmed meat has…  As one of my friends very aptly stated “it tastes really lamby”.  Which in my mind, sums up what this kind of farming is all about.  The animals are happy, happy animals are tasty animals and eating them makes me a happy animal.  Surely, this is the perfect circle of life! 

It tastes how meat used to taste and how it should taste, it reminds me of going to the village butcher with my Mummy when I was a little girl.  There was a little butcher shop in the middle of the village, right next to the river Churn or the Brook as we used to call it.  Mummy and I would walk down there together to buy the meat, have a good gossip with Ken and I would count the eggs.   I have realised as I have grown up that counting the eggs served no purpose other than to entertain me whilst the butcher Ken and Mummy had a chat.  Handling eggs as a small child is a fragile business so my full attention was needed.  Unlike these days, all the meat would be hanging up in the back of the shop and his knives and saws and mallets all dangled from hooks.  You would select your meat, he would grab a great beast from one of his hooks and proceed to masterfully chop it and slice it or dice it and generally provide great theatre as well as great meat.  This is how McHenry farm shop makes me feel, it makes me  nostalgic and somehow makes me feel involved, as if by them sharing the story behind the meat, I am somehow a part of the process. 

Rant over, back to the lamb.  It was tasty and skillfully cooked and exactly what my hangover needed.  Eating it with my favourite Zinfandel was slowly bringing me back to life.  Luckily there was still a tiny pocket of space for some of the delightful lemon delicious slice which I have to order every time I go there.  I had forewarned my friends that I would not be sharing this dessert but their sad little faces were longing for a bite and so I had to share with all and there was virtually none left for me.  And so I had to order another slice…  What a way to spend a Sunday.  Great friends, great, honest food and wine and the sun shining. 

For those of you who haven’t made it to the McHenry farm shop yet, you should go there, immediately.  And for those of you who live on the other side of the world, find a place with similar integrity in your neighbourhood.  Trust me, food with integrity just tastes better!

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What makes wind?

Before I begin yet another foodie waffle fest, I wanted to take a moment to thank you lovely people who go to the trouble of reading my blog and making comments.  It makes my day when I look at my stats and see that 15 lovely people have viewed my blog.  Not exactly the dizzying heights of fame but nice to know that someone, somewhere thinks that my little trifles (excuse the pun) are worth a look.  And whoever has looked at my blog every day for the last 3 days, I thank you especially!  It’s probably my Mum!

So, not much is happening in my foodie calendar at the moment.  We’re trying to save money so there has been a lot of bulky food in our bellies.  Although I must say, the challenge of working with limited ingredients is a virtuous one.  I found myself making homemade Gnocchi with a simple mushroom sauce, I used the recipe from the restaurant I used to work for but unfortunately my touch must not be as light as my ex head chef  and sous chef.  Their gnocchi was like eating a little pillow of perfectly seasoned air whereas mine was more like a pillow of slightly doughy stuff, but not bad for a beginner.  I have eaten some shocking, leaden little excuses for gnocchi in the past so I think with a little practice, I could definitely become a master.  It is nice to know that simplicity still rules in the kitchen. 

Last night I went for the really low rent dinner and decided we would have baked beans on toast.  However, me being me and therefore being a right little madame I gave in to my desires and accidentally found myself in the supermarket purchasing a few mere slivers of rolled pancetta.  Who can eat beans on toast without a wee bit of glamour and yummy piggy fat thrown in???  Clearly not me…

As you can see my kitchen is not exactly set alight with culinary alchemy at the moment but I will endeavour to keep the steady humdrum of drivel flowing onto these here pages.  Tonight I’m making a yummy Beef and Capsicum stew which is really nicely spiced and is basically like a hug in a bowl.  I’m taking it round to my friend A’s tomorrow, she’s been a bit poorly and I think this might just be the tonic she needs.  This recipe is all thanks to my wonderful mother who has made it for me many times and taught me how to cook.  Mummy if I could post it home, I would, not sure how well stew travels…

Just as I was about to sign off, I remembered a funny little dinner table story from my youth.  It goes a bit like this…

Dad – “What makes wind? ” (He’s very intellectual & always sought to teach us)

Me – “Baked beans!” 

Cue lots of giggling from me and my sister and Dad trying very hard to pretend it wasn’t funny.  It was eight year old humour, what can I say?

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