Wednesday, April 25

Salad Heaven, Salad Hell.

Imagine my hunger.

Safe in the Staffroom fridge I had a plastic box of salad stuff left over from dinner the previous night. Clock-watching, my imagination savoured the contents of the box. Smoked salmon. Hot-Smoked mackerel. Potato salad made with mayonnaise and floury organic potatoes. Beetroot in balsamic vinegar. Coleslaw, cottage cheese and leaves of rocket and lamb’s lettuce dressed with lemon-flavoured Colonna Gran Verde olive oil…..

One O’clock came, I hastened to the fridge, grabbing my carrier bag from it and almost running to the park to claim a bench in the sun for the coming delights. I felt the soft give of the slice of bread I had cut, the hard metal of the fork rattling a drum beat as my feet struck the cherry-blossom path into our local greenspace.

I sat down, brought out the fork, laying it on a serviette on the bench. I placed the slice of bread down, rummaged for my bottle of water.

Let the feasting commence…

I opened the lid.

Potato Salad.

Wrong Box.


My Lunch was still in the fridge at home.

Sunday, April 15

Loafing About

With the weather forecast getting better by the day, we decided to visit to Kew Gardens yesterday.

Now, for us, one of the joys of the day is taking along a good picnic.

So, a couple of days ago I made some bread for our sandwiches.

If I can convince one person to try and make bread for the first time I will be happy.

Making bread is easy, and it doesn’t take hours of work.

I timed how long it took to make the dough from scratch. 15 Minutes!!
Then I left it to rise for an hour, whilst doing battle with my other half over the Scrabble Board.

After an hour of rising, I knocked the dough down (basically kneaded it again for two minutes). Then I popped the dough into a tin for the final rise (proving) whilst returning to the garden to finish off the game (I lost, badly.) (My wife would say I always do lose badly!)

Two hours after starting, the dough went into the oven.

And Voila!

Monday, April 9

There is something about blogging in the sunshine....

Somehow sitting at the laptop in the open air inspires fantasies of creativity; Hemingway sitting at his Remington, trusty shotgun at his shoulder….

(No don’t worry, I’m not feeling suicidal, far from it! Full of the joys of Spring, me!)

Happy Easter to everyone reading this. It’s midday and the sun is baking down, a fresh coolness pouncing on the unwary whenever one of the few passing clouds dares to cover the sun.

Yesterday the Legal Eagle and her Beau came round for an Easter Sunday celebration.

Main course was a handsome leg of Irish lamb. (Probably the left leg, it was very tender).

As always though, when the Legal Eagle is around, a good pudding is never far away.

This marvel was a “Tarte aux poires a la normande”, an excellent tart of pears in an almondy frangipane filling.

The recipe is in Jane Grigson’s excellent The Cooking of Normandy. (Now out of print and “Collectible”, available from Amazon second-hand)

When it arrived on the table, it looked as if we had been transported to the other side of the channel.

To conclude, a group photo to commemorate a great day:

(Left to Right, The Beau, Legal Eagle, The Phantom, The Phantom's Better Half).

Tuesday, April 3

Catching Up

(One of the many things I wanted to blog about but didn’t have the energy to in the last fortnight)....

A survey published recently which found that most people have a repertoire of only four or five recipes which they cook time and time again. The most commonly cooked family meals?

  1. Spag Bol
  2. Roast Dinner
  3. Sausage and Mash
  4. Stir Fry
  5. Stew
  6. Chicken Tikka Masala
  7. Chilli Con Carne
  8. Shepherd’s pie
  9. Fish and Chips

With spag bol being cooked twice a week by over 6 million people.

One can’t help feeling that the number of people who actually cook Chicken Tikka rather than re-heat a ready meal is pretty slim. And fish and chips?

As with all surveys, you have to question the motives of those who commission it. In this case, learning that the survey was paid for by Loyd Grossman’s company (manufacturers of jars of ready-made sauces) gives a clue to the viewpoint in question.

Mr G. is saying that people are stuck in a rut, lacking in ideas and what they need is a jar of sauce!!

Surely what is needed is an improved range of knowledge about techniques and ingredients. A box of minced beef fried up to slush with onions is only ever that, regardless of whatever flavour sauce is poured on top. But that mince could be turned into fresh burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, lasagne, bastitsio or stuffed into any variety of cabbage, aubergine, pepper or tomato. Not to mention keema curry!

When Loyd Grossman presented Masterchef he helped stimulate ideas about techniques and ingredients. Now all he is doing is encouraging laziness in the kitchen and limiting people’s culinary horizons.

I am a sad enough foodie that I actually keep a food log of each day’s main meals. I went back over the last 10 Tuesdays. This is what we had:

  1. Cottage pie (made with minced leftover roast lamb).
  2. Baked Salmon Steaks
  3. Pea and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
  4. Cold gammon Knuckle with parsnip mash
  5. Baked Salmon Fillet on a bed of celeriac and carrot
  6. Grilled Mackerel and trout with a warm ratatouille and couscous
  7. Belly of pork braised with ginger, star anise and soy
  8. Chinese Take Away (!) (I had the ‘flu)
  9. Shop bought chicken curries (Ditto)
  10. Casserole of Dublin (lamb shoulder) chops.

By and large, simple ingredients, simply prepared. And not a jar of sauce in sight….