Week Ten, Day Three ( Tuesday)

Following on from the the contents of my kitchen drawers ( and by the way that was only half of them) , what do I absolutely love by way of appliances.

I love my food processor, I have a Magimix, and this must be the third or even fourth reincarnation as I have had one for the last 30 years or more. I even have its twin in France. Something I use almost on a daily basis. Spares are easy to come by which makes it even more attractive.

Next down, though not used anywhere near as much and is also a Magimix. Again, I have had one of there for many years and use it for purées and soups mostly.

Electric hand whisk, again something simple but invaluable, so much easier than beating by hand, maybe not in the true chef mode but easy to use.

Next is an electric carving knife, not sure why I still have this as almost NEVER do a roast, but seems silly to throw it away, as it still works well.

My Sous Vide wand, which I Love and as with the food processor, I have its twin in France. It talks to my phone and as such I have to switch it over depending on where I am, maybe I should pair the one in France with a different phone, just to make life a tad easier.

Going on from the Sous Vide machine , necessity calls for a vacuum pack machine, and again I have twins, one here and one there. The first one I bought after a trip to Mexico, I had always used zip lock bags for flat packing soups etc, but someone had delivered vacuum packed goodies to eldest daughter after the north of her third child. Umm thought I What a good idea and so returned bearing a vacuum sealer ( and mini transformer). Nowadays I have an English version, easier to use.

A hand blender, where would I be without it, mayonnaise, anchovy butter, walnut pesto, here I come. Mine is by a Swiss company and is meant to be the best, whereas the one I have in France was much cheaper and didn’t last long, it died.

Pestle and mortar , a necessity for pounding and grinding .

Latest, non electrical are products from Lekule, until recently I used Pyrex with cling film in the microwave, but this company has improved things, I have one item good for cooking rice ( smallish quantities) and another for vegetables, which is very good.

Other items, which I have had, forever, a potato ricer, it makes the absolute perfect mashed potatoes, an electric plug in table top grill, not used as much since I had installed my teppanyaki grill, up useful none the less. And an electronic rice cooker, which I love if cooking rice for more than one person. It cooks by weight, is fast and efficient and then switches to keep warm mode. And of course a toaster ( Himself sometimes likes toast for breakfast).

One gadget which I have had for +/- 35 years is a thingy which converts Grams, kilos etc to pounds and ounces, which is not much good if you are working in just grams or as in my case I often work in Cups. But if you have an old book which says 16 oz, turn the dial and it says 450 grams ! Brilliant, no longer the need for some mental arithmetic.

One item which I used a lot about 42 years ago, was a cream maker. We lived in the wilds of Normandy and at the time there was cream galore but it was Crème Fraîche, which translates as fresh cream, but it is not sweet cream, almost sour, try putting that in cream eclairs, not good ! But not sure if it is any longer available!

Needless to say I also have a juicer, it is cold slow press, which is good and I used it in my “I am a juicer “Phase, which is now past, so I am afraid it is in the cupboard. But maybe that should go to France.

And of course the Ice Cream Machine.

And that is all for now and I haven’t even started on pots and pans, dishes and baking items, things like dishes for individual soufflés and pies, but will save that for another day.

WEEK TEN, DAY TWO ( Monday)

Here is a flash back to Week Nine, Day Seven.

Where I live in London, there is an absolute plethora of Fast Food stores, all catering to the mass of humanity that streams out of Baker Street Tube station every morning. Baker Street station is one of the stations that has remained open during this Lockdown with a few of the regulars still commuting, one of my neighbours a Dr, uses it to get to the hospital or our porters to get from their home to here. Or the young girl who works the early shift at the local grocery store. Otherwise Baker Street has become a ghost town . The buses, although reduced in numbers still plough their way up and down , usually with no passengers and all but one of the eateries is closed. The one that stayed open is Joe the Juice, not Macdonalds, not Kentucky Fried chicken, nor Starbucks nor Pret, but just Joe the Juice, where even one of my neighbours goes in the morning to get her caffein fix! Take away only, but you must have their App. Normally, parked on Baker Street is a whole army of delivery drivers, Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats, they are all there, still but reduced in numbers.

I read the other day that some people in London during this Lockdown have ordered Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, from Takeaways, and why not when even Michelin starred restaurants are offering such a service. No doubt all the hustle and bustle will return soon, shame really I have been enjoying the tranquility of being in Central London.

Saturday is my day off, though I did cook breakfast, the Eggs Florentine. When asked what Himself wanted to cook for dinner, as it was his day to cook. His immediate response was ‘a noodle type dish, as served in Wagamama ‘

Quelle Surprise, I just happened to have a Wagamama cook book. Bought especially because my grandchildren really like Wagamama, so I bought the book. It is full of fun dishes,which are easy to cook and Fast? They have to be Fast. If you have ever been to Wagamama you will understand. All food is cooked to order and comes when ready, so apart from having everything pre-prepared, it is just assembled and cooked when ordered.

He also wanted his dish with noodles, normally I’d don’t “Do” noodles, but as it was his choice I agreed. This was after turning down in the past, things like Venison Stew, or Steak and Kidney, pie/ Pudding or Tripe, all things which I would NEVER choose to eat or order and that are things that he loves in his perverse kind of way.

And so it was agreed, it had to be Chilli Beef Ramen.

We basically had all that we needed, we had soft Asian noodles albeit not ramen. We didn’t have Bean Sprouts, nor did either of the stores that we visited. Otherwise everything was at hand.

  1. 150 grams bean sprouts, ( we used a can of bamboo shoots)
  2. 250 soft noodles
  3. 1 litre of stock, we used stock powder
  4. 6 spring onions cut into bits
  5. 2 red chillis chopped
  6. 1 onion sliced thinly
  7. 1 like cut into 4
  8. A small bunch coriander chopped.
  9. 350 grams steak, we used Onglet
  10. Small amount of teriyaki sauce
  • We also used a small packet of baby spinach. The recipe also calls for a mixture of 2 tsp sugar 2 Tabs of vinegar ( we used rice vinegar), 3 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce and 5 Tbsp fish sauce.
  • Himself, used the sous-vide machine in which he cooked the vacuum packed meat for one hour at 140 F.
  • Cook the noodles according to instructions on packet, they usually cook very quickly.
  • Heat some oil in a wok and throw in the sliced onions and sauté until soft, remove and put to one side. Cut the meat into thin slices and sauté briefly, and baste with the teriyaki sauce. Add everything else to the wok, except the noodles and coriander, bring to the boil. Switch off the heat.
  • Divide the noodles between the bowls, ladle contents of wok onto noodles and garnish with the chopped coriander. Very quick to make and very tasty.

    A note on Onglet or as it is called in English Hanger Steak.

    A hanger steak, is also known as butcher’s steak, is a cut of steak prized for its flavor. It comes from the plate , which is the upper belly of the animal. It was often called “butcher’s steak”, because the butchers would keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale. Why? Because they knew that it was one of the tastiest cuts of meat.

  • Week Ten, Day One ( Sunday)

    WEEK TEN, WHERE DID THE OTHER NINE GO ?

    What a beautiful day, the sun shone and the wind blew, not too much and the golf course was lovely.

    Tonight we had the neighbourhood Cocktail Party, great to see Pat, our 91 year old neighbour looking very suntanned, what else can he do ? Certainly not go out on the town ! But he can sit outside in the sun, which has been lovely for the last, How Many Weeks?

    Across the void in our own little sanctuary, I haven’t finished the cleaning out of my kitchen drawers, I dare not mention other cookware, the moulds, cake or otherwise, the pans, the ” Can’t live without Gadgets, but that will come.

    Meanwhile I found a recipe for another Clementine cake, the same but different. This time with olive oil, so had to give it a try. Judging by looks alone, it is a plus, but the proof of the Pudding Is?

    1. 4 Clementines boiled in water for about 30 minutes until soft
    2. 4 eggs
    3. 160gms/ 6 oz/ 3/4 Cup caster sugar
    4. 100 mls olive oil
    5. 175 grams ground almonds
    6. 2 tsp baking powder

    Heat the oven to 180 C Or 160 C Fan oven. Grease a 20 cm spring form pan.

    Using a food processor with the motor running, tip in the fruit and process, rind and all until it is truly smushed. Add everything else and process quickly to mix well.

    Pour into the prepared pan and put on the middle shelf and bake for about 50 minutes. It should be golden brown and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.

    And that is it !

    Weirdly, I needed Baking Powder, the brand I usually use is Dr. Oetker, but I ended up buying Marks and Spencer ( limit on the amount one could buy). Look carefully, the Dr. Oetka is Gluten Free, whereas the M and S is not !

    Also weirdly, I had ordered from Waitrose online yet more Baking powder, but they sent me a text ” out of stock” but we have substituted it with RICE FLOUR ! Who in their right minds would think that Rice Flour is a substitute for Baking Powder ! Now I have to think what to do with Rice Flour! Pasta ? Now, that’s a thought !

    And the end result of latest cake, the proof of the pudding is in the eating And YES, the result, to my mind is better, it is really moist, maybe even better with ice cream or cream, but it is a YES!

    A very calm Thames, this morning.

    Week Nine, Day Seven. ( Saturday)

    Methinks, we can’t finish Lockdown yet, I haven’t done all I set out to do, and I’ve a dozen masks to make, plus the surgical gowns ( one almost done) to make! HELP!

    Today is my Day Off in the kitchen ( well alright I did breakfast) but Himself is in charge for tonight.

    I have spent part of the day, sorting and cleaning my kitchen drawers. Everything has its place, I’m really a bit OCD, but it was about time to clean them out. What do you have in your kitchen drawers, do you know? Are there things there that shouldn’t be? Are their things there that are never used? Are there things there that are a complete waste of space?

    I must admit that I buy kitchen paraphernalia as a hobby, especially when overseas, or there is a new kitchen shop. BUT, I don’t just buy Willy Nilly, I think about it and wonder if it is a good idea, and if it is not too expensive I might give it a try. Or if it is beautiful , then even if useless, it is a must buy!

    When I had my ‘Cooking School’ in Brussels I decided on a menu and then wondered if I had the right equipment, invariably not, which would mean a trip to my local market town where there was a wonderful kitchen shop, and if she didn’t have what I needed then she would get it for me. She knew that if I was giving a class, then my pupils would be along to buy the gadget! ( a bit Delia smith syndrome, though on a much smaller scale!)

    So what did I find in my kitchen drawers?

    An assortment of plastic utensils, all of which are used.

    Here we have three different peelers, one for potatoes, one for finer peeling ( maybe tomatoes, or asparagus ) and one for cutting Julienne strips.Three bean slicers! One belonged to my Mom, so that has to stay, and one strings as well as slice. Considering I rarely cook Runner beans, maybe that is over kill. Two Apple corers, fish tweezers ( for getting rid of any stray bones), the absolute perfect zester and a butter curler ( everyone needs one of these)!Here are shellfish pickers, a pastry wheel, a larding needle and two induction Hob scrapers.

    From the top, kitchen scissors ( must have more than one pair) an excellent knife sharpener( I have tried many and so far this is the best!) and a string box/ cutter

    The wooden drawer, I’m very fussy about my bits of wood. I prefer, Olive wood utensils, they have such a nice feel, followed by bamboo and then others. A big old spoon for when I am making Jam and a couple of wooden spatulas, including the wavy one made by #1 daughter about 30 years ago! I recently bought a set of wooden spoons from Robert Dyas, just because my small ones had gone ‘walkabout’ ( probably in the Trash Bin) , they were just horrible, I should have known better, they had just such a horrible feel to them, that they too went the bin.

    Not one but two rolling pins! The green handled one, I have had forever and the small one I bought in India, for when I make chapattis , I have never made them ! Here we have an antique ice cream scoop, a mushroom brush ( one should never wash mushrooms) an old pie funnel, a potato fork, to hold whilst peeling boiling hot potatoes, an Avocado thingy ( never used) and a mango stoner. Actually this was very useful when I was in my Eating a Mango daily Phase.Here is a collection from 3 rd drawer down. A smart carving knife,an old carving fork, my absolute favourite palette knife, don’t you dare put that in the dishwasher, well as my ancient ham knife, useful for slicing cakes in half! Then another ham knife, meat forks,grater, a ladle and a fancy frying basket.At the bottom, an egg slicer ( Never used) Parmesan cheese grater, again rarely used but in beautiful Olive Wood, long handled strainer, a truffle slice ( never used but I love it, beautiful) two thermometers, used for jam making etc, why two? Simply I wanted to make jam and couldn’t find the first one.And the little steel thing, an icing sugar duster device! ( of course !)And now, an assortment from my Stainless steel drawer.Ladles meat bashed and whisk.And finally , for today at least, a few of the items that are for the bin. A temperature probe for steaks ( bought in Texas, where steaks are THICK, otherwise, it tests the temperature of the pan in which the steaks are cooking) a citrus peeler, Useless, a smart zester, useless, it makes one hold the lemon the wrong way, a carrot pencil sharpener, Don’t ask ! The green thing a Joseph and Joseph invention, for smushing garlic? And the red thing for rolling the skin off garlic!

    Ah well, I haven’t cleaned all of the drawers yet, so more to come !

    Week Nine, Day Six

    Day Six, normally translates as Friday Night Travels. However the instigator of the event has reneged ( again) claiming that with three kids to home school and work commitments, Friday night has become too complicated and so now it will be Saturday Night Travels ( But not Saturday Night Fever, or I suppose it could be).

    Here in our Folly, we did indeed travel, we had planned to be outside during our little escapade, but the wind ( it can be very windy indeed up here) put paid to that.

    We went to Venice on the Orient Express, stayed at Cipriani’s and drank Peach Bellini’s at Harry’s Bar. Peach Bellini was invented around 1940 by Guiseppe Cipriani and named it after a 15 th Century artist, Giovanni Bellini. It is made with a purée of white peaches and Prosecco, but there are variations, a Puccini with Mandarin juice, a Rossini , with strawberries and Tintoretto using pomegranate.

    W2, went on her outing to Primrose Hill, and made sparkling cup cakes, specifically requested by Young Sam, Lucky Boy!

    Forgoing, an Italian dinner, we went for an Italian named breakfast. Eggs Florentine. This is a variation of Eggs Benedict, a true American incarnation but with spinach. Many people shy away from making the hollandaise sauce as almost all the cookery books out there make it sound difficult. In reality and with practice and a microwave, it becomes a cinch.

    To make hollandaise in the microwave follow these simple instructions:-

    1. 50 grams unsalted butter, cut into chunks
    2. 1 small/ medium egg well beaten
    3. Juice of half a small lemon
    4. A tsp white wine ( optional, don’t open a bottle for this)
    5. 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Melt the butter in the microwave on half power for about a minute, no more. Mix the egg, lemon juice, wine and mustard together, and then pour over the warm melted butter.
  • Return to the microwave, again on half power for 30 seconds, remove and mix well. Repeat this step until the mixture has thickened. I use a hand blender to mix and at the slightest hint of a curdle beat well.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • For the eggs Florentine, you will need, some toasted English Muffins ( I used Brioche, not having muffins,) or indeed some sour dough toast. Some poached eggs, and some cooked spinach. I cook my spinach ( 1/2 a packet ) in a microwave dish, in the microwave, it only takes a couple of minutes and is still fresh, not soggy.
  • Arrange the spinach on the toast, followed by ham if using, then the spinach and topped with the poached eggs and finally the sauce.
  • Week Nine, Day Five ( Thursday)

    Many years ago, my eldest daughter ( the willowy Blond) declared “Salads are Boring!” I can see her now, and where we were at the time, actually only seems like yesterday and now her eldest is about the same age as she was at the time!

    I like salads, often eat them especially when I have cooked something for Himself that I do not care to eat. I remember another salad incident even longer ago that the one above. Autumn, in Gibraltar, which has to have ranked the worse place to spend vacation time, ( sorry Gibraltar). Summer in Europe had been dire, rain, rain and more rain. We lived in the wilds of Normandy, where despite the rain, the food was always good. However we decided a break was needed and off we went, with two tiny tots in tow. After arriving at the hotel, the first thing we did was to go to the BA office and ask for tickets out of there. The weather was bad, the hotel was bad, Gibraltar was worse than bad and no escape, the border to Spain was still closed and all flights fully booked. So stay was the only thing we could do.

    The salad I had for lunch was indescribably bad. In what was then a British salad, a few limp lettuce leaves, a few bits of tomato, a few slices of cucumber and a chicken leg. Heinz salad cream in a greasy bottle by its side. But apart from looking awful, the chicken was FROZEN ! We took it back, it was returned, warm on the outside and frozen in the middle. We said, Thanks, but No thanks, but then we’re asked to pay !

    Last night, for dinner, it was going to be a salad night, that way it could be ready to go, when we were ready to eat.

    I used the following:-

    Baby spinach, rocket ( arugula), frozen peas, avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, new potatoes, roasted red and green peppers ( left over from the fish of a previous dinner) black olives, asparagus, canned tuna fish and hard boiled eggs. Topped with homemade mayonnaise. In the end it was a kind of take on Salad Nicoise but not. Too many ingredients and no green beans. Himself declared that he had really enjoyed it, and no doubt willowy blond, these days would have said the same.

    To make your mayonnaise

    1 large egg at room temperature

    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

    1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

    salt, to taste

    1 cup (240 ml) neutral flavored oil, I used good olive oil

    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice,

    I also added a teaspoon of garlic/ ginger paste. Normally I would just use fresh garlic crushed.

    Using either a small food processor or hand blender:-

      Add egg to the food processor or in a jug along with the mustard, lemon juice and salt. Process for 20 seconds.

      Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, turn the food processor on then begin to slowly add the oil in tiny drops until about a quarter of the oil has been added.

      With the processor on, continue to add it slowly, but increase to a very thin stream instead of drops of oil.

      When all of the oil has been added, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and process for an extra 10 seconds. Taste mayonnaise for seasoning.

      Note, if the mayo seems too thin, slowly stream in more oil with the processor running until thick.

  • If for any reason your mayonnaise ‘breaks’ then here is the fix.
  • Add about 1 teaspoon of mustard to a bowl then use a whisk to slowly beat the broken mayonnaise, bit by bit, into the mustard until it becomes emulsified and creamy again. Or another way is to add an egg yolk to a large bowl and slowly use a whisk to beat the broken mayo, bit by bit, into the yolk. Most recipes call for just an egg yolk when making mayonnaise, but using a whole egg at room temperature is actually much easier.

    Of course there are many variations on a theme, try adding fresh herbs or some spices,Ring the changes, have fun.

  • Week Nine, Day Four, (Wednesday)

    What a beautiful, beautiful day here in London, and even more beautiful on the golf course. We went and played today, some good, some bad, but just lovely to be out and somewhere not having to avoid people. Naturally we avoided people, but there were none to be avoided, Millionaires Golf.

    The plants in bloom were gorgeous, the Egyptian Geese, had been busy and their babies looked almost full grown. The Swans on the other hand, had apparently 8 or maybe 9 little ones, but I could only see three today. Did you know that Swans mate for life? And did you know that Swans on the Thames belong equally to the Crown, ( ie at the moment the Queen) and two livery companies, namely the Vintners and the Dyers. Each year in July, there is a ceremony, called Swan Upping in which the swans are ringed and divided up. We had a friend who was once the president of the Dyers and at their annual dinner, ate swan and I believe it is only these three groups that are allowed to eat swan!( though I could be wrong on that one, but do know that they are protected).

    Needless to say, we didn’t eat swan for dinner, in fact had a very simple, dinner, basically as my brain was not functioning. However, after a visit to Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall, where there seemed to be an abundance of wonderful English asparagus, my refrigerator seems to have rather a surplus. Therefore, asparagus was certainly going to be on the menu.

    Very simply, we had poached eggs with Asparagus and bacon. The first time I had eggs cooked in this way( not just poached) was several years ago and although it turns out to be a bit tricky the end result is worth it.

    Lightly poach some eggs, two or three per person as a main, or just one as a starter ( it is a good starter). Everyone one must have their own way of poaching eggs, but for this dish to be most interesting, the whites have to be on the soft side and the yolks most definitely runny . I poach eggs by dropping them into boiling water, to which I have added a few drops of lemon juice, bring the water back to the boil and switch off and leave for about 5 minutes.

    Carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and put on a plate.

    Then comes the messy bit.

    Heat some oil, deep enough to fry the eggs and while it is heating coat the eggs with beaten eggs and breadcrumbs, slide them very carefully into the hot oil and deep fry just for a couple of minutes for them to be golden brown , remove, drain and serve at once on grilled asparagus, with some crunchy bacon bits on top.

    One point worth noting, asparagus can make your pee smell. Why? Well, Asparagusic acid is a sulfur-containing compound that seems to be found exclusively in asparagus.some people say it is like rotten cabbage , rotten eggs, natural gas or even Skunk Spray, but anyway it is non toxic. And depending on your genetic makeup your body might treat it differently and not have this smell!