February 27, 2015 §
Biggest food successes of the week were the roast beef last Sunday, done to rosy in the middle, sliced thin and piled onto bread with the onions roasted underneath it, some slaw and a thin smear of mustard. And the braised red cabbage with caraway, mustard seeds and red wine. The granola bars, however, didn’t hold together at all, so got crumbled up, baked for another half hour and put in the jar for granola over cereal.
Without a recipe:
- Fish finger tacos, cabbage slaw, avocado
- Breadcrumbed fish and chips
- Roast topside of beef in sandwiches with roast onions
- Egg fried rice with vegetables
- Pizza with artichoke hearts and cheddar
February 20, 2015 §
After a week of being cooked for, this week was a combination of new projects, and eating from the freezer. The week was anchored by a big braise of pork with tomatoes, and of beans on Sunday, which gave us pork and bean burritos, tomato sauce for pasta, and mashed beans for baby dinners. I ordered such a large piece of pork, that the other half is in the oven this evening for porchetta. Oh, and I made Semlor (see picture above), Scandinavian cardamom buns filled with vanilla whipped cream and marzipan, for Shrove Tuesday. I am completely converted – and they are even better with a thin layer of raspberry jam.
Without a recipe:
- Pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs from the freezer
- Burritos with braised beans, shredded pork, tomato salsa, and weirdly, stir-fried veg, which actually worked ok.
- My mum’s pheasant casserole from the freezer
February 16, 2015 §
It’s pancake day! We all know that pancakes are made on Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, to use up eggs, milk and butter that are fasted until Easter. But the tradition isn’t quite as straightforward as that. Pancakes are also associated with a pagan festival of the start of spring, their round shape representing the sun, which battles with the forces of winter, and triumphs when spring arrives. It’s also a very long time since fasting from dairy was commonplace in Britain. Starting with the dissolution of the monasteries and the creation of the Church of England in the 16th century (Wolf Hall fans take note!), the customs of the Roman Catholic church started to recede. According to Clarissa Dickson-Wright’s ‘A History of English Food’, the rules against the consumption of dairy during Lent were abolished in 1541, and by the time of Pepys, very few Lenten traditions were being observed at all.
Pancake Day must have been a very popular festival to have survived so long without the religious motivation. Dorothy Hartley in ‘Food in England’ distinguishes the English pancake tradition from the European one:
“Abroad pancakes are usually open and piled up together. In England, our pancakes are symbols of our insular detachment, for each is rolled up by itself, aloof, with its own small slice of lemon.”
But what to make if you’re not really in the mood for British pancake tossing? There are lots of other traditional bakes from around the world that celebrate the start of lent, and the last days before the fast starts before Easter. They all have similar ingredients, but in different proportions: butter, milk, eggs, flour – and in many cases, yeast too.
- Scandinavia, particularly Finland and Sweden, have semlor – Scandinavian cardamom buns, filled with vanilla whipped cream and marzipan. Signe Johansen has a great recipe in Scandilicious, or try Edd Kimber’s.
- King cake, a sweetened yeast bread, with a cinnamon swirl, and covered in coloured sugar is made for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Joy the Baker, now living in New Orleans, has a king cake recipe, complete with plastic baby jesus (yes, really).
- Malasada – yeasted doughnuts traditionally eaten in Portugal, and also made in Hawaii. Not sure where to find a good Portuguese recipe, but you could always just go for Justin Gellatly’s ‘custard-bomb’ doughnuts instead ;-)
February 13, 2015 §
A short one this week, because I almost forgot to put this post together, and because I haven’t bookmarked that much this week. I’ve also been treated to someone else’s cooking all week, with my Mum catering while she was staying with us.
Reading this week:
February 6, 2015 §
This has been a week of marmalade. I set out to made this ‘Good morning’ breakfast marmalade recipe with some blood oranges that were lurking in the fridge, along with lemons and a pink grapefruit. Despite conscientious pectin extraction from the membranes, and boiling twice, it still hasn’t set (I suspect because I didn’t have the crucial Seville oranges). So now I need some good recipes for marmalade syrup. These marmalade brownies are high up the list, as well as a marmalade and coconut bakewell tart from delicious magazine. I also plan to tackle some sort of marmalade granola (maybe this one). Next time, I’ll go back to my June Taylor recipes, even if she does make you segment all the fruit.
Recipes this week:
Without a recipe:
- Spice Tailor Keralan coconut curry with fish, peas and sweet potato
- Leftover braised beef ragu over pasta
- Tomato sauce and Grandma Turano’s meatballs from the freezer
- Burritos with black beans, avocado and grilled chicken
January 30, 2015 §
There has been a lot of simple without-a-recipe cooking this week, coinciding with a more concerted attempt to make proper meals for the little madam, as opposed to just assembling random bits on the fly. A roast chicken at the start of the week provided leftovers for two more meals, and the bones went into the freezer to make stock another day. It’s looking like it will be cold here this weekend, so I’m glad I’ve got some thick slices of beef shin in the fridge to braise slowly and shred into unctuous ragu.
Without a recipe:
- Slow-roast chicken, roast potatoes in the same pan, broccoli and cauliflower cheese
- Pasta with tomato sauce and chicken
- Fried rice with chicken and vegetables
- Sausages, potatoes and sweet potato, red onions roasted together
- Fish parcels with sea bream, leeks and potatoes
Reading this week:
- The Economist publishes an annual guide to the relative value of currencies, based on the price of a Big Mac around the world. They have coined the term ‘burgernomics’ for this exercise, and they’ve really gone to town with the food-based adjectives and puns in this year’s article.
- Food52 acknowledges something that should be more common – the ‘perfect’ version of a given dish is very subjective. So they give you a guide to creating your favourite brownie, whether your idea of perfect is fudgey, cakey or chewy.
- The Serious Eats Food Lab comes up regularly in these links, for their forensic approach to getting a dish right, and their interest in the nuts-and-bolts of food science. This article on recreating the perfect McDonald’s-style fries is a great example.
- It’s a common observation (and one that Eddie Izzard has views on) that pears are ripe for a frustratingly short window. When they’re good, they’re excellent – when bad, they can be tasteless, gritty, floury. The Awl takes apart the pear and how to make the best of it. It’s based on US varieties – I’ve never seen a Seckel pear here – but there is some overlap.
- How-to videos are one of the great assets of the internet, and great for teaching cooking techniques. Here is a simple video on the best way to de-seed and chop a pepper. For more on these sort of simple techniques, the NY Times has a series on basic techniques, and Poires au Chocolat has a good set on baking foundations.
- And some baking inspiration for the weekend (in addition to the marmalade cake above):
January 23, 2015 §
Winter is really here now. I think it took its time arriving, but there’s no real doubt now. Even in our sheltered corner, there’s thick frost on the ground each morning. I’m thankful there’s no snow though – we’re not equipped for it!
Recipes from this week:
Cooking without a recipe:
- Chicken curry (Spice Tailor sauce) and dal
- Pasta and sauce
And this week’s reading (which includes tidying up some old articles too):