Pommes de Terre Aligot ( Posh Mash)

The other day I made Pommes Aligot, or Posh Mashed Potatoes to you and me! It is the absolute best mashed potatoes with cheese that you have ever had. It originated in the Auvergne region of France, but is eaten a lot in the Aude. It can be heavily laced with garlic, but perfectly acceptable without! And is soooo Easy!

What you need!

  • 2.5 kilos of floury potatoes
  • 2 + cloves garlic chopped
  • 250 mls cream, preferably double cream
  • 125 grams butter, preferably unsalted
  • 500 grams grated cheese and again preferably a French cheese like Tomme, Gruyère or Emmental, but definitely not cheddar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

And here is what you do !

  • Wash and boil the potatoes, along with the garlic.
  • When soft, strain and mash throughly, I use a potato ricer to get a very fine mash.
  • Add the cream and butter, mix really well.
  • When the butter has melted add the cheese and keep mixing until the cheese has blended and melted in.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Stupidly, as perhaps as is normal for me, I made too much. But as I say always, waste not want not and this was no different. Potato was packed into a box and refrigerated. Of course I could have just reheated it but that was too simple, especially as we had house guests and we decided to trudge up the hill in knee deep snow to our local. ( the only cafe / bar/ mini restaurant/ depôt de pain in our little French Village). I say knee deep in snow, it wasn’t knee deep when we went but it certainly was upon our return!

So, I also had a small cooked ham which also needed using. The Aligot was really thick, Croquetas sprang to mind! Perfect!

I chopped the ham finely and mixed it with the cold potatoes and actually mixed it by hand! Such a lovely squeezy feeling as it oozed through the fingers.

I made the Croquetas by scooping out about a dessert spoonful of the mixture ( I used my ice cream scoop). Roll the mixture in a little flour, so it doesn’t stick, then in beaten egg and then in breadcrumbs. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used!

Heat some oil in a pan or deep fat fryer ( I prefer to use a small wok as you get the depth of oil, without using oodles of oil.) Heat the oil, keep an eye on it, do not let it smoke ( burns) . Test for readiness by dropping in a small amount of bread, if it sizzles straight away, it is hot enough to use. Fry the Croquetas in small batches. If you have sufficiently coated in egg and breadcrumbs, the cheese will begin to ooze out. When brown, remove from the oil and drain on paper. Refrigerate until ready to use, can be used as a side dish or as munchies with a glass of bubbles or something!

Soup is up!

When it is wet and dreary, there is no better time to make soup.

My standard soup is what we jokingly call Refrigerator Soup. And in reality it is just that. I make it when I have vegetables, cheese, ham , yoghurt, milk and cream that needs using. This is the case, especially in the summer, when we decamp to our mountain hideaway in the French Alps. The refrigerator is emptied and soup is made, packed in one person packets and frozen, ready for himself at a later date to have for lunch.

The same really applies to when we arrive in the Alps, but this time it is winter and snow is falling ( or rain) and I do an inventory of food stuffs in the freezer and make mental note that it is time to make soup.

One soup that Himself particularly likes is pea. It is simplicity itself, using frozen peas, lettuce, butter, cream and of course stock. It is extremely easy to make, quick to make, tastes wonderful and freezes well! What’s not to like ( well, maybe if you don’t like peas)!

Ingredients

  • 1 Kilo frozen peas
  • 2 baby Gem Lettuce ( actually the same amount of any lettuce will do) chopped
  • 1 medium white onion chopped roughly
  • 175 grms butter
  • 2 pints vegetable stock ( cube or powder will suffice)
  • 400 mls cream
  • Pinch salt, tsp sugar.
  • What to do!
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
  • Add the onion and cook gently until soft, do not brown
  • Add the lettuce and cook gently for a few minutes and then add the peas, the stock, and sugar.
  • Cook with lid on until the peas are really soft.
  • Using a slotted spoon , scoop out the peas and liquidise them you will need to add some of the liquid as well, but be careful as it will obviously be hot.
  • Return to the liquid, stir well, and then add the cream
  • Add some salt and taste .
  • AND THAT IS IT !
  • To be really smart swish a little cream on top before serving.

I love making soups, especially in the winter, but not just in the winter. It is a great way of experimenting in the kitchen.

Cauliflower is a good one to start with, simple, Cream of Cauliflower. Or cauliflower with a mild curry flavour. Another very simple one is using a can or two of tomatoes. The list is endless, so maybe more next time!

Shallot Tarte Tatin

I know , I know, savoury Tarte Tatin is all the rage these days and not wishing to be outdone, I made my Bubble and Squeak version a couple of weeks ago.

We were heading to North London for our family Christmas Dinner. The North Finchley Crew, after defying President Macrons sudden rule that Les Britanniques were not welcome in France after midnight on the 17 December, dashed across the Channel in the middle of the night to spend Christmas in France, are decamping to Devon with the other side of their family. So Willowy Blond had us all there. Willowy Brunette took on the dessert along with her 12 year old adorable niece and Myself the starters.

I could have made life simple by, doing smoked salmon, with its trimmings but decided to be more adventurous and make individual Shallot Tatin. Actually very easy, just a lot of shallots and lots of paper tissues or perhaps, onion defying glasses might have been better.

  • For 9/12 individual tarts
  • Allow at least 3 shallots per person and even then I needed some more
  • At least 4 oz butter, but add more if needed.
  • Some dried herbs, rosemary/ thyme or fresh parsley
  • A good splodge of Balsamic vinegar ( maybe 1/2 a cup)
  • About a teaspoon of black pepper
  • A reasonable pinch of salt.
  • How to do it !
  • Peel the shallots and keep one whole per person , the rest slice.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy pan, or if making a lot a wok or large sauce pan, and add the whole shallots and gently fry them so that they cook more or less through and caramelise nicely. Set to one side
  • Add the sliced shallots to the pan add more butter if needed and sauté, stirring from time to time so that they are again more or less cooked and are caramelised.
  • Put one whole shallot into each ramekin and fill up with the cooked slices. Put to one side and make the pastry. Of course you can always use bought pastry! No one will know !

To make my quick and easy pastry, using a food processor you will need

  • 260 grms plain flour
  • 140 grms cold unsalted butter cut into chunks
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten with 60 mls cold water.
  • What to do
  • Put the flour, butter, salt into a food processor and process, the butter will go clunk, clunk for a few seconds and when it stops clunking, switch off, the mixture will look like bread crumbs. Switch on and pour in the water/ egg, and again it will clunk and the mixture will form roughly into a ball. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead gently until it is fully combined and get ready to roll it out.
  • The beauty of a tart Tatin, is that on serving it is tipped upside down and the juices will soak into the pastry. So roll the pastry out to about 1 centimetre ( and no you do not need a tape measure), and using a pastry cutter, cut out rounds marginally larger than your ramekins. Simply put on top of the ramekins, press down slightly and bake at 180 C for about 20 minutes long enough for pastry to brown. Obviously these can be made ahead of time, put to one side and baked just before serving, giving you a enough time to sip a few cocktails with your guests.
  • To serve, simply, put a plate of the top of the ramekin and invert. Be careful as the juices will be hot.

Willowy Brunette however was too busy working or swimming in minus temperatures outdoors so Himself took on a desert, ( more of that later) and Miss Tess made the most wonderful cheesecake ( she loves to bake and I need her recipe)!

Mid week dinner, Mark One ( a savoury Tarte Tatin)

Who doesn’t LOVE a Tarte TATIN? I don’t often make desserts but Tarte Tatin has to be up there with the best. Rustic, non refined, forget the deconstructed ones, go for the real McCoy, the full bodied, full blooded, the whole kit and caboodle. The thick rich short pastry, oozing with caramel that has seeped into the pastry , the apples likewise oozing with caramel. What’s not to like? Well it really has to be served with Ice Cream ( or even more decadent thick whipped double cream, or even even better Cornish cream, rich thick and yellow) my mouth is watering just thinking about it! ( just remember it freezes well, cut into slices and a quick zapp in the microwave to reheat).

But today I’m talking about alternative Tart Tatin, in reality not Tart Tatin at all but why not ring the changes. Yes you can. Currently an “In” version is shallot Tatin. And so thinking about that and scrolling through magazines and books, I came across Cabbage Tatin, and why not I asked myself. I had in my refrigerator a lovely sweet heart cabbage, some mushrooms and onions along with garlic, of course.

I made my standard food processor rich short pastry, but there is no shame in using shop bought. I sliced the mushrooms, the onions and the cabbage, the garlic and sautéed them in butter. Actually, this could be called BUBBLE and SQUEEK Tart Tatin.

  • Ingredients
  • 1small cabbage ( I used Hispi)
  • 2 Oz unsalted butter
  • 60 grams tomato purée
  • 4 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • 100 grams button mushrooms sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2tsp Harissa paste or powder
  • I also used some Nduja for a little extra spicy tang
  • A quantity of readymade pastry

Method, Heat the oven to 190 C

Slice the cabbage and onions and sauté them in a large pan until slightly charred.

Remove from pan, add the tomato paste along with the Harissa. Stir and add about 1/4 litre water. Place the cabbage mix back into the pan and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the liquid has evaporated

  • Cut the pastry to marginally bigger than your pan, and place on top of the cabbage mix, tuck in the edges and prick the top several times.
  • Bake in the middle shelf for about 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through .
  • Cool slightly
  • Then to serve place a plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip over onto the plate.
  • Serve with salad ,crème fraiche and a sprinkling of Zatar.

Mid Week Dinner Mark Two ( seafood stew)

What springs to mind when thinking of Beetroot or Beets if you are American. Generally in the UK, we only eat the the bulbous part of the beetroot plant though there is no reason not to cook the leaves, though I have never done so. Their relative is Swiss chard and if you should wish to cook the leaves find a recipe for Swiss Chard.

Growing up, Beetroot, was something that I avoided as much as I could. Although both my mother and her sister ( my favourite Aunt, Auntie Brenda) were good cooks in the fashion of basic home cooks, whose role in life was to make sure that the children were never hungry. But Beetroot ! It was only ever served cold, pickled in vinegar with its dark red glow smothering the lettuce leaves and salad on which it was always served. And to make matters worse, salad was very boring, limp lettuce, a few tomatoes and cucumber and of course BEETROOT! My parents, along with half or more than half of the population grew their own vegetables. There were no Freezers, only bottling or salting to preserve what they grew throughout the winter months. Potatoes were dug and kept in the dark, so they wouldn’t sprout or grow green. Runner beans were cut and nestled in salt, and I don’t remember anything about peas, except shelling them on the doorstep and they were always hard. Marrow was never preserved, as it would go mushy but I remember carrots being kept in the ground. Onions must have been kept in the dark, so they wouldn’t sprout or go soggy, but other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts were harvested as needed along with cabbages. But Beetroot, it was only ever preserved in Vinegar and as such that was the way it would be bought, in glass jars and pickled.

Consequently, I didn’t eat Beetroot until about 10/15 years ago. There it was in the supermarket in vacuum packed bags, cooked and ready to rock and roll. Hallelujah! And suddenly recipes abounded for beetroot. One of my favourites is very simply, beetroot cut into chunks and sautéed in butter and dressed with Balsamic vinegar. Beetroot Risotto is another favourite, just think of this wonderful colour, hot pink ! And what about Beetroot and horseradish cold soup, the most amazing Peptobismol pink! Ummm yes ! So going from avoiding Beetroot like the plaque, I am now a fan. ( I am still to be converted to Beet greens though, I will try hard whilst in France in January).

I made the other day, a fish stew. I love rummaging in my Fish freezer, deciding what has to be used, is it going to be Fish Pie, Fish Curry, hang on Fish stew with Beetroot ! YES !! And Yes again ! The colour is amazing as are the flavours !

  • As this is a stew, it can be adapted to suit whatever you have.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each of coriander seeds and fennel seeds
  • 3 celery sticks diced
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 beetroot ( less if that is all in a packet)
  • At least 4 cloves of garlic smushed
  • An onion chopped
  • Spring onions sliced for garnish
  • 800 mls of either fish or vegetable stock, ( cube or powder will do )
  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced
  • 600 grams assorted seafood cut into chunks
  • 1 can of either baby tomatoes or chopped tomatoes.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Heat the oil and add the seeds, until they sizzle, add the celery, the garlic, the carrots and the chopped onion. Add the stock, the tomatoes, the zest and the juice along with the chopped beetroot and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the fish, making sure that it is all covered by the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Taste and season with Salt and Pepper. Sprinkle the chopped spring onions on top.
  • Serve with crusty bread,, pasta , rice or the starch of your choice.

Pumpkin Time

I like, many at this time of year bought a pumpkin. My little granddaughters had pumpkins and I helped to carve them. But mine sat there and looked glum. The neighbourhood kids were not coming round this year ( too much building work going on) and big grandkids, had been swanning around with their mother in Louisiana. And so my pumpkin just sat, reminding me every morning that I needed to do something with it and not just let it rot!

My original thought was pumpkin and ginger soup. However flicking through my multitude of cookbooks and magazines a brainwave came to me. Near us is a restaurant which goes by the name of WULF AND LAMB. We have only been there once, when #1 daughter offered to take us and her kids out to lunch for my birthday. The sun shone and we sat outside and watched the world go by. There were two issues, one was that the restaurant was vegetarian and the other was that daughter forgot her credit card ! Ah well, the vegetarian meal was really very good, and the company of daughter and grandkids, made up for Himself having to pay !

Therefore my new thought, for my needy pumpkin was a casserole. I stole the idea, but altered it substantially, using the ingredients I had to hand.

  • To make a casserole for 6-8
  • A medium sized pumpkin
  • Some oil to sauté
  • Several cloves of garlic smushed
  • 2-3 onions peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 200 grms soft apricots
  • 100 grams mixed pitted olives
  • 1tabsp capers
  • 100 grms mixed candied fruit ( I used papaya, and pineapple)
  • 50 mls of red wine vinegar or I used Vinaigre d’Orléans whihc is red wine vinegar made in a traditional method.
  • 100 mls of white port or sherry, ( if not use extra vinegar)
  • 1 tabsp dark brown sugar
  • 200 grms crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Peel and slice the pumpkin and cut into wedges.
  • Heat some oil in a pan and sauté the pumpkin so that it gets a caramel colour, remove from the pan
  • Stir fry the onion and when soft add all the other ingredients except the cheese.
  • Put in the pumpkin and stir to mix. Taste, season.
  • Put into a casserole dish
  • Pringle with the feta cheese and bake at 175C for about 45 mins, until pumpkin is soft and cheese melted.

Obviously this can be made ahead and left to one side until needed. Can be made a day ahead, but then refrigerate. Can be eaten just as a vegetarian dinner, along with crusty bread or served as a side.

Decadent Chocolate Tart.

One could be forgiven in thinking that Folly Towers has been a little quiet in the kitchen of late, but you would be wrong! I have been playing with all things Chicken, but have not finished as yet so will report my findings in the very near future.

Meanwhile, I had decided to make a tart. I started put by making my oat meal pastry , but then decided I would make it chocolate oatmeal pastry. But the next question was, What kind of tart, well, it became obvious , with chocolate pastry it had to be chocolate. And who doesn’t like chocolate , eldest grandson for one. When they lived in Mexico City, he tried oh so hard to like chocolate cake, he was at an age, when little kids went to lots of birthday parties. In Mexico City they were completely over the top, with the crowning glory being an extravagant Cake, and Chocolate of course. So he tried very hard to like chocolate, so that he wouldn’t miss out on cake, and he does have a sweet tooth, especially super nice doughnuts, but all to no avail.

However, my tart of choice yesterday, had to be chocolate. Actually it became chocolate and chilli tart. Other flavours that go really well with chocolate are, Orange, Mint, Lavender, peanut butter and salted caramel.

  • 140 grams coarse toasted oats
  • 140 grams plain flour
  • 60 grams fine caster sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 150 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa

Heat oven to 170 C.

Using a food processor, place the oats, flour, salt, sugar, butter and cocoa into the bowl, switch on and give it a quick wiz and then with the motor running pour in the egg and mixture will go Bonk Bonk and form into a rough ball. Turn onto a cocoa surface and knead for a couple of minutes to form a smooth ball. Roll out carefully into a round about 2” larger than your dish. ( I used a 23 cm non stick tart tin with a loose base). Carefully hang the pastry over the rolling pin and drap it over the dish and mould into the sides using your knuckles. Line the tin with greaseproof paper and fill the time with beans or rice to bake blind for only about 10 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and trim the pastry that might be overhanging the tin. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C.

For the filling

  • 600 mls double cream
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1/2 tsp of chipotle paste ( or more if a stronger chilli taste is wanted.
  • 400 grams of 70% dark chocolate
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • To serve some lime or lemon zest, vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche

To make the filling heat a small amount of the cream and add the chilli and leave it to infuse for 15 minutes or so. pour the cream into either a saucepan or microwave bowl add the chocolate broken into bits along with the chilli infused cream. Bring to the boil, stir until the chocolate is well incorporated, cool slightly and add the beaten eggs, whisking all the while. Pour into the pastry case, pop bake into the cooler oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes until just set ( gently press the top with your fingers). Remove from oven and leave to cool.

Sprinkle the top with zest of lime, or according to you filling, bits of lavender, zest of an orange, chopped peanuts etc.

Serve at room temperature and in small slices. Himself served, huge chunks ! Beware! Extremely Rich!

Mackerel or Shrimp with charred corn and a spicy tomato salsa.

I have often written that Himself really likes mackerel, whereas I am not so keen. Coming from the south coast in the UK, I surprisingly did not eat much fish to loving all ( almost) things fish but not mackerel ( not so keen on Shark either). My first encounter with mackerel was in Berlin, many many years ago, but best forgotten, it was certainly not memorable, except I didn’t like it !

Therefore, I buy mackerel for Himself and Shrimp for me, these I love. But what I needed was a recipe of sorts that will be good for both of us. This was planned for a Saturday night, however having three little people to stay, soon put paid to that idea. Likewise for the Sunday night. Having been on a picnic, with said little ones (2 1/2, 5 & 7) to the Wonderful Kew Gardens , Himself queuing for 25 minutes to get coffees and ice creams ( wrong they don’t serve Ice Cream but Hot Chocolate brownies with ice cream ). Then a round trip of about 60 miles to deposit little ones back to their appropriate parents, it was then just too late, so Sunday dinner was a “ make do” …… Smushed avocado with poached eggs! Actually not bad at all.

Fast forward to fish or shrimp with charred corn and spicy tomato salsa. 2-3 fillets per person, 6-8 large shrimp per person

  • 2-3 mackerel fillets and / or 6-8 Shrimp
  • A spring onion ( scallion) cut into thin rounds
  • Olive oil and sea salt
  • A cob of corn per person with kernels removed or 1/2 tin corn, patted dry, or a handful of frozen corn defrosted.
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 finely chopped red chillies
  • 2 teaspoons Nduja or Rose Harissa for a less spicy salsa
  • 1-2 crushed/ chopped cloves of garlic. A squeeze from a tube, will also work
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • Juice of a lime
  • 1 lime cut into wedges to serve
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • Prick the tomatoes, put into a bowl or jug and pour over some boiling water. Leave for a few minutes, and with a sharp knife, peel off the skin. Chop finely.
  • Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil and add the tomatoes, garlic, Nduja/Harissa, lime juice and a pinch of salt, sauté gently until the ingredients are well married.
  • Heat a griddle pan or cast iron pan until hot, lightly grease and add the corn, stir occasionally until the corn is charred. Remove from the pan and put in the tomato mixture.
  • Reheat the griddle pan, lightly grease and when Hot , place the mackerel on the pan, skin side down. Keep an eye on the fish, and the flesh will change colour when it is cooked through and only maybe 5 minutes max. Cook the shrimp in the same way.
  • Spoon the salsa onto the plates, garnish with the spring onions and top with the fish. Serve with some bread to mop the salsa or with some new potatoes.

A visit to a local Michelin Starred restaurant and Moules !

This week saw us wandering down the road to a restaurant near by. Himself had a birthday and as such we went to Le Gavroche, owned by Michel Roux Junior. He is probably best known for being one of the leading lights of Master Chef, the professionals, but also he is the son of Albert, who along with his brother Michel had the very famous Waterside Inn.

Le Gavroche which means The Paperboy or Urchin and the Logo is just that, a Parisian ragamuffin, just think of Les Miserables. Le Gavroche was started by the Roux brothers and today is run by Michel Jr. ( although he has now dropped the Jr. title.)

The restaurant is on a small Mayfair street, next to the Old USA Embassy, one almost misses it walking down the street, a small glass fronted door, a door bell and a smart young doorman opens it and meets and greets before escorting down the stairs to a discreet dining room which is deceptively large but one’s table gives everyone the feeling that they are in a relatively small dining room. The most I could see at any one time were a mere 17!

The menu is relatively small, a tasting menu which can be served with a wine flight or not and a small à La carte, which basically repeated parts of the tasting menu though with larger portions. We chose the À La Carte. Himself chose the Fagottini aux Champignons, Ragoût de Morilles, Fèves et Madère, Ail des Ours and myself the Seared scallops, with sea vegetables and a smoked eel sauce.

For our main, he had Longe de Veau, Petits Pois, Oignons et Salade Sucrine whilst I took the Côtelettes d’Agneau Rôties, Courgette et sa Fleur Farcie, Ail Noir.

For dessert, he insisted that I take the cheese ( just so he could sample some of mine, and he got a mini birthday cake. The bottom line:- the service impeccable, the ambiance really nice as the room felt small and intimate and the food great. Also a wonderful place to people watch and we will go again I am sure!

Back to more mundane things, cooking at home. I had a fish delivery this time from Sykes. What I had forgotten very simply, the fish comes already frozen. This normally does not pose a problem, fish frozen at sea is far better than buying it fresh and then freezing at home. However, I ordered 2 kilos of mussels for which I didn’t really have room for in the freezer and so it was to be mussels for dinner.

As a family, we all eat mussels. Having spent 13 years living in Belgium, where Moules Frites are a national dish how could we not. Our favourite Moules restaurant was Au Vieux Bruxelles. A Hole in the Wall kind of place. Not huge but always busy. In our day it was impossible to book so arriving early was de rigour, or be prepared to wait, and often in the rain. Although they do serve other Belgian specialities, they are renowned for their Moules Frites.as you can see they served them in 11 different ways, ranging from plain to the exotic.

At home we have cooked Moules in a variety of ways but mostly Marinères ( cooked in white wine with tomatoes, garlic and onions. This time round we more or less made Thai mussels with garlic, lemon grass, chillies and lots of coconut milk. As the mussels had been frozen, they were already clean and de-bearding them not necessary.

  • For two hungry people
  • 2 kilos of mussels
  • 4 tablespoons oil ( we used sesame oil)
  • 1 large-Ish white onion finely chopped
  • 4-8 cloves garlic crushed
  • Two or more stems of Lemon grass chopped
  • Spoonful of chillies in oil or some chopped chillies according to taste. You don’t like spicy ? Add some paprika instead.
  • 1can chopped tomatoes
  • 2cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 lemons squeezed
  • A squirt (1”) tomato paste
  • Some salt to taste
  • Very simply
  • Sauté the onion, lemon grass and garlic in the oil until soft but not brown, add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the coconut milk.
  • Bring to the boil, add the mussels, turn to simmer, put on the lid and simmer for about 5 minutes, giving a good shake a couple of times.
  • Remove the lid, check that the mussels have all opens, discard those that have not and serve by squeezing over the lemon juice. Traditionally served with Frites, but we had them with sourdough bread!

Yummy indeed.

Waste not want not.

There has been a lot of hype recently over the cost of living crisis. And it is not just in the UK, but it is where I live and as such it should concern me.

First off, cooking, which is the best / cheapest way to cook, and then food waste.

I have a spanking new Miele Oven and Microwave, but the one I am likely to use on a very regular basis is the microwave. I have had a microwave since 1979. I lugged it home from Sears Roebucks ( we lived in Texas at the time) and fell in love with it. Every weekend, I would play with it, that along with my newly acquired food processor. On moving back to Belgium I had my own cookery school, 60 ladies a month for 7 months of the year, over a period of 10 years! As it was based on “ How to give a dinner party“ lunch was always eaten and wine drank. Himself thought I should have my own recycling bottle bank!

But I digress. Firstly, which appliance is the cheapest to run? Well it is the microwave oven. Not only is it cheap to run, it is cheap to buy and with cooking vegetables for example, quick, and nutritionally very good indeed. More nutrients are preserved than by, say boiling. Boiling vegetables is time consuming, energy consuming and nutrients thrown away down the sink.

Well not surprisingly, Microwave ovens are the cheapest to run costing as little as 7 p a day, whereas a traditional electric oven is nearer £1.00 a day. Dual fuel come in at about 75 p per day and Gas at 33 p. Air fryers at 14 p. Induction hobs are more efficient and therefore cheaper to run, as they heat the pan only and not the entire room, but of course they can be expensive to buy and come with the possibility of needing new pans.

I always cook my vegetables in the microwave and for two of us, I use my microwave rice cooker, which cooks rice very quickly. Popcorn is the easiest thing to do in the Microwave as are sauces, ranging from a simple white sauce to Hollandaise, to Crème Anglaise ( custard) to Bolognaise to Hot Fudge Sauce and Chocolate sauce. Lemon curd is very easy as are Meringues, especially if you want to make Eton Mess. I have to admit that I don’t bake ( but then I don’t bake that often either these days) in the microwave, although a purist will, but I would recommend buying a good microwave instruction book and play with the machine.

And then there is Food Waste. I was raised in the school of Waste Not Want Not. Food was never thrown away and we certainly never got sick from food poisoning and yet nowadays it is a throwaway society. I feel that this partly brought in by stores and governments introducing, Use by and best before dates. What happened to the Smell test, even one of my daughters will throw food away, it if has reached its Best Before date. Dry goods such as rice and pasta last for ages as do tinned goods and then items such as Worcestershire sauce, which get better with age have to have a use by date! Crazy!

If you buy Avocados that are under ripe, then leave one out to ripen and refrigerate the others, as they will ripen slowly in the refrigerator.Don’t ever throw out potatoes, don’t keep in a plastic bag but in a cool dark place, cut off any sprouts and green bits and use, perfectly safe. British people throw away 24 million slices of bread EVERY DAY! Hundreds of uses for stale bread, but bread freezes well and what is even better it can be RE-FROZEN once defrosted! Use stale bread to make breadcrumbs, bread and butter pudding, bread pudding, pain perdu, and pangrattato are just a few of the everyday uses. AND what about Bananas, over 900,000 thrown away daily along with milk ( nearly 500million pints each year) ! Do you buy ready meals and throw some away, well you are in good company as £3.5 billion worth are chucked away each year! Honestly !

So here are a couple of ideas to make the most of goodies you might find lurking in your refrigerator!

My Go To recipe , or not recipe is REFRIGERATOR SOUP.! This made particularly when we are about to leave on a longish trip. A few days beforehand, I raid the refrigerator, put the large saucepan on the stove, peel and chop whatever is there. Usually vegetables but also lettuce. Always ads garlic, onions, maybe ginger and of course stock. In this case I might use a stock cube or two, but if I have real stock ( don’t throw away chicken bones, fish carcass etc, make stock, it freezes well) then I use that. Quantities do not matter. I let everything cook until soft, then when the mixture has cooled somewhat, either chunky pureé with a hand blender or smoother in a liquidiser. I often add cream or milk or yoghurt, really whatever takes my fancy and whatever I have that I need to use. TASTE AND SEASON! Very important. Leave to cool and bag. Zip lock bags are perfect, one bag makes a good lunch time bowl of soup. FREEZE FLAT, saves a lot of room in you freezer.

The other Go To, use everything up option is to make a vegetable curry. Recipes abound, but again one can be creative, using whatever there is, but always sauté some onions along with some Garlic to begin with. Peel and chop all the vegetables, and to make things go faster,these can all be pre-cooked in the microwave. Add curry powder , some Garam Masala, salt and pepper, maybe some chilli to the onions and mix well, and cook for a few minutes in either Ghee or oil, it really doesn’t matter. Then I usually add some creamed coconut and some coconut milk, along with the vegetables. Serve on rice and garnish with coriander, if there is any left! Again, flat pack and freeze, ready for dinner when you need it!

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