Friday food links – 22 May 2015

Dulce de leche brownies

A flurry of cooking is about to take place, in preparation for our first all-comers Sunday lunch this weekend. These brownies are the first in line. Now I’ve posted a photo, I guess eating them all before Sunday is no longer an option! There was also a roast chicken last Saturday evening, which provided the backbone for the week’s eating – chicken pie, and risotto with the stock. There were also a good number of meals from the freezer, plus mopping up odds and ends of leftovers from last week.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Leftover pork and bean burritos
  • Pasta with leftover beef stew stretched into pasta sauce
  • Chicken pie
  • Asparagus risotto
  • Roasted rhubarb with orange – served with custard

Reading:

Friday food links – 15 May 2015

An abundance of strawberry flowers

I have a cucumber! A very small one, but there is a bona fide cucumber on my cucumber plant, so that must mean that summer is just around the corner, no? And my strawberries are covered in flowers. It could be a bumper crop, if I can keep the pigeons off them. It’s been a plain and simple kind of food week – lots of Americana. And probably not enough fish or veggies. But it’s all a work in progress. Isn’t every week?

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Beef shin stew – from the freezer
  • Grilled salmon, mashed potato, chard
  • Takeaway pizza
  • Leftover dal
  • Burgers and grilled vegetables, excellent white bread rolls
  • Roast chicken, new potatoes, asparagus

Reading:

Book review: Slow cooked by Miss South

  
You may have noticed me going on (and on) about my slow cooker cooking in my weekly Friday food links posts. Faced with an imminent return to work, and the prospect of squeezing dinner preparation for a one year old into a tiny gap between nursery pickup and bath-and-bedtime, I decided a slow cooker would solve all my problems. (Well, maybe not all of them.) Aware of how little spare counterspace I have, as well as the number of appliances in my cupboards, my hand paused over the ‘buy’ button a couple of times, but in the end I went for it. I thought I had best get a book to go with this new purchase, and the briefest of searches through Amazon reviews suggested that ‘Slow Cooked‘ by Miss South of the North/South Food blog was the one to get.

In this instance, Amazon reviewers were right on the money. This is a great book, and I haven’t stopped cooking from it since it arrived. It has only a handful of photos, in a section at the start, but Miss South writes such excellent head notes that I have scarcely missed them. The recipe titles and notes are enough to draw me in.

I had expected a book largely filled with stews of various sorts – and would have been content with this. But she goes well beyond standard slow cooker fare, with chapters on currys, pulses and grains, vegetables, as well as cakes and breads, and puddings.

 

white chili

white chili with chicken and haricot beans

 
So far I have made: meat ragu, stewed beef shin, white chili, chicken mole, pulled pork, aubergine ragout, tarka dal, dulce de leche (heating a can of condensed milk), caramelised onions (a big batch for the freezer), chicken stock and confit tomatoes. Everything has worked, and has tasted good. The chicken recipes benefit from a slightly shorter cooking time – although the white chili makes good use of this by breaking up the chicken into shreds with the beans. The dal took longer, but I suspect the age of the split peas was to blame there. The beans in the chili, cooked from dried without soaking, were beautifully creamy and intact, with none of the fuzziness that comes from boiling.

There are still a lot more recipes I’d like to try out, not least the cinnamon buns, so, thanks to this book, I think my slow cooker has earned a permanent place on my counter.

Friday food links – 8 May 2015

Morning world. Strawberry rhubarb porridge this morning. Glad to see the sun after storms overnight.

It feels a bit like we’re in limbo here at the moment. After a brief burst of warm weather in April, and then chilly temperatures again, most of this week has felt like neither winter or spring. The leaves are green, but we haven’t really had the little glimpses of summer that I associate with this time of year. So we are still eating stews, dal, porridge – the dishes of winter – and waiting for it to feel like it’s time for asparagus, peas, broad beans and artichokes.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Pinhead oatmeal porridge – made a batch, and reheated on several mornings this week
  • Sausages and jacket potatoes
  • Pizza – with confit tomatoes and roasted peppers
  • Lasagne – with slow cooker ragu from the freezer
  • Chicken Mole from the freezer (also slow cooker)
  • Chicken korma – Spice Tailor sauce
  • Slow cooker chicken stock

Reading:

Making lists of things we love

From this Food52 thing based on this book comes the idea of making lists of things that you love, as a way to reflect, to feel better, and to appreciate the little things that brighten each day. So inspired by this, and with no particular theme, here is one of mine.

View of the City of London from Waterloo bridge

Things I love:

    • the view from Waterloo bridge, especially from the bus, especially when the sun is going down.
    • making and icing a layer cake, and sharing it with friends. Precisely that sort of absorbing craft that is so rewarding and you get cake too!
    • apple blossom, cherry blossom

Ah, cherry blossom. It really is spring then.

    • the sound of my daughter laughing
    • good bread with good salted butter – enough butter to leave toothmarks
    • mountains

Untitled

  • rolling up trousers and paddling in the sea, listening to the waves
  • cello music, especially Jacqueline du Pre playing this
  • starting a new notebook
  • the smell of jasmine on a warm evening

Friday food links – 1 May 2015

I have two punnets of raspberries (about 300g). What would you make? I'm thinking cake....

What kind of week has it been? Busy, as I start to get back into the swing of work. Little E still has a horrid cough, so sleep hasn’t been great generally (although we did get only our second ever sleep through the night on Monday night). Lots more slow cooker meals this week. I’ve decided that on my working days our dinner should either be from the slow cooker, from the freezer or something made of leftovers. I can save the more creative cooking for the days when I have a bit more time to play with. I also found myself with some extra berries, so raspberry muffins were made for work colleagues, and there’s either a raspberry ricotta cake or raspberry friands on the menu this weekend.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Roast chicken
  • Sausage bap (for dinner? yes, really)
  • Pumpkin filled pasta (from the supermarket) with pesto and ricotta

Reading:

Very little this week, for some reason – lots of catching up to do this weekend.

One year on

Monkey cakes for little E's first birthday

A year ago, I was just home from the hospital with our brand new baby girl. She was ever so slightly sallow from jaundice, but otherwise perfect, with a big mop of dark hair, and tiny hands which she loved to press against her cheek while she slept.

It’s such a cliché that it’s hardly worth saying but this has been a year of changes, big and small. It’s true that for the nine months of pregnancy, you think much more about the few hours of birth than the weeks and months that come afterwards. In some ways this makes sense – you have to learn as you do, and you also have to learn about this new human in your life, and their likes and dislikes: there is a good chunk of nature there being subjected to your initially hesitant nurturing.

I have learnt to stroll slowly with a pushchair, ekeing out a nap, rather than striding with a London-commuter bustle. I have learnt what you really can get done during a half hour nap (surprisingly little) and that sometimes the very best use of that time is a cup of tea and a biscuit. I’ve learnt the value of one-handed food that requires no preparation in the early days (quiche, sausage rolls and cake are excellent supplies to have to hand with a newborn). I’ve just a started to work out a pattern of cooking that keeps all three of us fed every evening without undue delays (the slow cooker and the freezer are a big help).

I have learnt that my sleep and her contentment come above everything else – a tidy house, a blog, reading, cooking. First, put on your own oxygen mask – looking after yourself means you have the resources to look after the baby too.

My daughter is fearless, bold, determined, intensely curious, delighted to be in the world. She knows what she wants, and is increasingly able to communicate it (by pointing, or going after it herself). She loves bananas, yoghurt, bread and bolognese sauce. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of the person she is becoming. I can’t wait for the next year – learning to walk, being able to stand next to me at a kitchen counter, watching the strawberries fatten in the garden. Happy Birthday little E. It’s been the most brilliant year so far, but I’m betting the next year will be better again.