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Sunday, 30 October 2011

A good breakfast

To me, weekend breakfasts are the best meals of the week and something I try to make special. When I was a child, breakfasts at weekends – especially Sunday breakfasts – were a veritable feast.

My sisters and I used to put everything you could possibly put onto a plate, with most of it being meat. But you can have a vegetarian ‘fry up’ too. Or you can go for something a little more refined.

Yesterday for example, I found myself with nothing in the fridge save for some eggs, a tomato and six black olives in a plastic box from something I’d made the night before. So, what else to do but put them together?

Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Black Olives

Beat the eggs in a bowl with some salt and pepper and a pinch of parsley or something I like, tarragon. Finely chop the olives and the tomatoes. Toast and butter a couple of muffins. Pop some butter in frying pan and get it melted. Add the eggs and give them a good stir. As they start to cook pop in the olives and get the warmed up. Then, in with the tomatoes – the whole cooking process should take two minutes at most.

Tip them over the toasted muffins and enjoy with a cup of strong black coffee.

Akela’s Eggy Bread with Vegemite and Cheesy Tomatoes.

‘Akela’ is the title given to the leader of a Cub Scout Pack. For many years I worked with someone called Audrey, who when she took her Cubs to camp, always cooked them Eggy Bread. Basically it’s a slice of white bread dipped into a bowl of uncooked scrambled eggs and fried. But you can still give it a bit of a zing.

Beat three eggs in a soup or pasta bowl, because this will be wide enough to drop the bread into. Now take a tomato and cut it in half. Chop up the inside of the tomato but don’t scoop the mixture out. Now, get some seriously strong cheese and grate it over the tomatoes. Push some of the cheese down into the body of the tomato and put under a medium grill or into a hot oven.

Next, take two slices of thick good quality wholemeal bread. Spread Vegemite (or Marmite) over them. Get a teaspoon of oil in a pan and heat until its almost smoking.

Drop in a slice of the eggy bread and fry it for about two minutes. Flip it over and give it another two minutes. Then, slide onto a plate and serve with the grilled tomato and some baked beans, garnished with some water cress and laced with a line of totally cold brown sauce. Smashing.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Heroic Herbs

In my area, cheap herbs are everywhere. A great fistful of coriander or flat leaf parsley will cost you no more than 50p from a local greengrocer. And these are real herbs too. I bought some Basil and Rosemary and their aroma filled the kitchen within minutes.

I also have loads of different dried herbs in airtight pots and use these all the time.

Celery and Dill Weed Soup

So often a recipe will call for a stick of celery, so I find myself with loads left over. Now again, round here celery is twice the size of what the supermarkets sell and (need I say it) a darned sight cheaper too. What better way to use it up than to make a soup with it?

Cut the bottom off the celery and then chop the rest of it up. Save a few leaves to garnish if you want, but don’t worry too much about it. Add in a chopped onion and half a chopped potato and then sweat everything over a low heat in a tablespoon of butter and certainly no more than that. After about ten minutes, cover it all with some warm stock and then put the lid back on and simmer it all until the celery is well and truly soft.

Take it off the heat and let it all cool down. Now blitz the living daylights out of it. Put it back on a very low heat and stir in a teaspoon of dried dill weed. Give a good stir, then check the flavour. If needs be stir in some more dill until you feel you have the balance right.

At this point, you might want to put in some salt and pepper, although I didn’t. The soup felt right without it. You might also want to put some cream. I didn’t but then you know my views on cream in soup.

A Cheap Stew

So, I came home this evening and thought it was getting a bit cold. So something warming was needed.

I bought 2 medium carrots, 1 turnip, 1 parsnip, 1 large potato and an onion. Total cost 80 pence. At home I had three stock cubes, a couple of tablespoons of lentils, some salt and pepper and a few teaspoons of herbs.

I chopped up all the vegetables, dropped them in a pan with the lentils, salt and pepper and covered them with the stock. Bringing the whole lot to the boil, I turned the heat down and let it all simmer until everything was cooked, but still firm. At that point, I added a tea spoon of dried parsley and oregano and half a teaspoon of a couple of tablespoons of the fresh rosemary I had left over from the day before. The only other thing I did was to add a teaspoon of vegetarian gravy mix to thicken it up a bit.

After letting the herbs develop their flavour, I tasted it. It was gorgeous! Thing was, there was enough for four people as well – and all for probably no more than £1.30. That’ll do!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Milk in soup, thats just so WRONG!

According to a certain online encyclopaedia, the term ‘chowder’ refers to soups that are traditionally thickened with milk or cream.

Now, mentioned milk to me in the context of a savoury dish and I tend to start going green around the gills. I like cream, and I use it in several recipes, such as Pasta Alfredo and Carrots in the Nevers Style. I also I very much like cheese. But the idea of using milk, especially in a soup - bluerrrgghhhhh!

Mind, I was playing round the other day and came up with this idea for a chowder that is rather nice, particularly at this time of the year when there is starting to be a nip in the air. Sorry, forgot to put a picture in, but I have made it and its rather good.

Potato and Sweetcorn Chowder

1 x chopped onion

1 x crushed garlic clove

1 decent sized potato, cut into good chunks

1 x long stick of celery, sliced

1 x green pepper, de-seeded and sliced

2 tbsp of sunflower oil

2 tbsp of butter

1 pint of pre-heated vegetable stock

half a pint of full cream milk

1 x tin of butter beans

300g of sweetcorn

Salt and pepper

teaspoon of dried sage or oregano

Melt the butter in a pan with the oil. When its nice and hot, chuck in the veg - including the onion and garlic - and let it sizzle for a while. Turn down the heat and then sweat everything for ten minutes or so, giving it the occasional stir.

Now, pour in the stock, cover the pan and let everything simmer until the potatoes are starting to cook. This should take about 15 minutes, depending on how chunky the spuds are.

Finally, add the milk, beans, sweet corn and sage and give everything another five minutes or so. Check the seasoning and then serve topped with grated cheese and some crusty bread.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

University Challenge


I have been nudged by pangs of nostalgia these past few days, remembering Autumn 1997, when I strode down Oxford’s Broad Street as a very proud first year university student.  Following a hugely successful year at Ruskin College, I transferred to The London School of Economics to complete my degree.
These nostalgic feelings have been brought on by seeing so many young people I know packing their rucksacks and overloading parental cars to head for halls of residence.  
My misty eyed memories of student life are tempered with the memory of it being a survival course. Eating well meant shopping carefully and in lots of different places to get the best value for money.
This simple recipe ought to feed a house full of hungry students quite cheaply. I call this recipe ‘pub’ pasta because its ideal for students coming back starving from the pub after a night on the beer! BTW the picture is a stock one!

Pub Pasta
1 500g bag of Spiralled Macaroni or Penne pasta.
2 Red Onions,
907g bag of Value Sweet corn,
Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
Refill box of dried Basil or fresh basil if its cheap enough.
Small bag of blanched, unsalted, non-roasted peanuts,
2 or 3 Cherry Tomatoes for each person.
100g of grated strong cheddar cheese,
Salt and Black pepper. 

Most of this stuff can be got from a supermarket, but also look out for local shops, because they can be much cheaper on things like the tomatoes, herbs and olive oil. DO NOT buy pre-grated cheese IT’S A RIP OFF.

Method
Use a handful of pasta for each person, with a couple of handfuls spare. Cook in salted boiling water. When its half way cooked, add in a good few handfuls of sweetcorn.
While that’s happening, roughly chop the onions and break up the nuts so that they are not too small.
Quarter the cherry tomatoes.
Make a mock pesto by putting 5 or 6 tablespoons of the oil into a bowl and add the dried basil and the nuts and half the grated cheese. Stir it all together season with salt and black pepper. .
Drain the pasta and sweetcorn when its cooked and transfer it back to the pan. Pour in the pesto and gently heat it all through.  Next stir in the red onions and tomatoes and take if off the heat. Serve in bowls with some extra grated cheese and some more oil drizzled over the top. 
If you want to, when cooking the pasta, drop a couple crushed garlic cloves into the water.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Two local (Hot and Cold) food stars

Recent visits to the Green Lanes Food Festival and the Alexandra Palace Farmers market have bought to my attention two pretty amazing local producers. 

Now, before I tell you about them, I must say that I discovered them and not the other way 
round. There's no product placement going on here! I don't tell them what I am doing until after I have tasted their products and I never ask for free samples or anything like that. 

Bim's Kitchen
Bim (pictured below) makes African inspired sauces based on family recipes right here in Green Lanes. 

Now, the last time I tasted an African sauce it scarred the inside of my mouth. And whilst its true that some of Bim's sauces are pretty ferocious, others are a lot more subtle. You'll see Bim most Sunday's at Alexandra Palace and the next time you go down to Cornwall, pop into Rick Stein's, because Bim has recently become one of his suppliers.

As is well known, I go down to that part of Cornwall an awful lot and it will be rather nice to see products on sale down there that are 'on the street where you live'. Well done Bim. 
Further information about Bim's products can be found at www.bimskitchen.com.
Sophie's Ice Cream
Prior to meeting Bim, the last time I tasted an African sauce was at the Masterchef Live show.  This was the one that was so hot that the only way I could cool down was by visiting an ice cream stall and getting a free sample. 

Now, nothing like that happened to me when I happened across Sophie at the Green Lanes Food Festival - it was just that I fancied an ice cream. So, I bought a little tub and wandered off and started eating it. 

I came back a few minutes later and commented that it was most unusual to have a chocolate ice cream that actually tasted of chocolate! It really was one of the nicest ice creams I have had in years. 

Well, then I got chatting to Sophie (above) and it turns out that she is based in Crouch End and Green Lanes had been the furthest place she had traveled to sell her goods. She is another truly local producer. She only sells in a couple of Crouch End shops, but can do orders for parties. 

I would say that next time you need some decent ice cream you should forget those 'luxury' brands and try something special thats locally produced.  Sophie can be contacted on 07792 217 118 or by email on Sophie_Pyett@hotmail.com.

Back (Again)


Life has an awful habit of getting in the way of good intentions. 

Two weeks ago I said I would be writing more frequently – and then life took over.
I have been very busy, but here I am again. 

A couple of days ago, I set myself some targets for the rest of the year. One of those was to put at least one entry a week on here. It should be easy as I have loads to put up.  Lets see what real life thinks of that idea shall we?