Look what arrived today, Mangoes! And Dinner ready to Cook!

I have been supporting Crowd Farming since March, supporting small farms ( mostly in Spain) who otherwise would have had to ditch their crops. I have supported three such farmers so far and this is not being just Altruistic, but also to inspire myself. ( having seen that we are stockpiling again, this is me! Mangoes, Olive Oil and Lemons !)

Therefore I have bought 5 litres of organic artisan Olive Oil, 5 Kilos of Beautiful unwaxed Lemons ( all now preserved for future use or donated to other cooks and today 5 Kilos of Mangoes from Maria Martinez. I will put them all to ripen, some I will just eat when ready and others will become Mango Sorbet and will also probably try Mango Jam.

Meanwhile, I have a new freezer, but read that as Another Freezer. As I am definitely not going grocery shopping but enjoying experimenting more in the kitchen And with the probability of Covid restrictions looming, and with my current freezer space full to bursting, it was time to expand. My Utility room is small but Himself got out his saw and hammer and Brain to install the new appliance, Success!

Eldest daughter the willowy blonde has a weekly Movie night with her three kids, Alfie, ( born in Sydney 13), Tess ( born in New Delhi, 10, going on ??) and young Sam ( our Mexican, 5), they take it in turns to choose the movie, and not always harmoniously! Whilst in France this summer, we also took part. Going on from that we decided, that as we are not going to the movies as such, we too would have a Pizza Movie night.

I made Pizza and watched Parasite( Oscar winner), which I enjoyed but Himself did not!

We have had another Take Away! Our third in 6 Months, all of which the willowy Brunette has been able to share with us. The first a Michelin starred Indian, which led us to make Fish/ Prawn Moilee, the second a Mexican from a renowned visiting chef. It was a disaster and most went into the bin, and now our third.

It was created by the winner of Master Chef 2020, Thomas Frake. It arrived as scheduled beautifully packaged and was promptly refrigerated. Instructions were in an online video with Thomas himself and a printed version also available. Instructions were followed, a few additions were added ( I had only ordered for two several weeks ago) , wine was drunk and dinner eaten.

Our dinner consisted of:-

Monkfish Scampi served on a bed of Pickled Fennel with Tartare Sauce.

Rack of Hogget ( technically from a two year old Lamb) with a Broad Bean and Pea Purée, crispy Broad Bean Shells, Hasselback Potatoes , with Salsa Verde.

Dessert an Earl Grey Eclair with Butterscotch sauce.

I also ordered the cheese course.

Was fun to cook and eat and of course could have done it all anyway. But would never have thought of keeping the shells of the broad beans and using them as a crispy garnish. The Monkfish Scampi ( did you know that not so long ago, nobody wanted to eat Monkfish and it was passed off in the local chippy as fried scampi), it was delicious and actually would have been happy with just that for dinner.

In fact we saved dessert and the cheese for the following night.

So two days on, the cheese is still in the refrigerator but we have eaten the eclairs. We enjoyed all of the meal but felt for us at least the Earl Grey Crêpe was underwhelming, nice but not especially so but otherwise it was really good. Have never thought of using the shells from broad beans before, I usually just throw them away, but now here is a thought!

Well done Thomas!

I will persevere!

Whilst in the French Alps I played with the making of Sourdough Bread. One might wonder why this is proving such a novelty or difficulty. People make sourdough bread all the time! So what is the problem?

I have my lovely starter but the elusive dough or bread remained a mystery.

The reason being ALTITUDE! Yeast, Bread, Baking, Cakes, they all react very differently to being made at Altitude.

I already knew the set of rules regarding cakes etc but didn’t really realise what the difference would be with bread and actually it is crucial.

However, as my starter was beautiful, I decided to freeze until we are here sometime in the future.

Life here in the mountains was very quiet ( well maybe not so quiet with three grandchildren around, especially the smaller one who at 5 years old is very noisy !)

Parents have been working from home, but have made the most of using Dave’s Gym ( small private gym) and Lac de Montriond, a mountain lake that has a surface area of 32 Ha. With a depth of 62 feet. This beautiful lake was formed several hundred years ago and is a popular tourist spot in the summer, with swimming, sailing, paddle boarding and horse riding on offer. Our lodgers on the other hand chose to swim it 2-3 times ( only 1.3 kms long and cold! Wet suit is really needed).

According to Rick Stein, the French do have Sourdough bread, or at least their version of it. It is called Pain de Campagne, but the general consensus is, that it doesn’t quiet hack it!Usually pretty small and do not on any account use the wonderful bread cutting machines, that will be found in all Boulangerie and even supermarkets. The slices will be far too thin and not at all satisfying.

This loaf I bought in the UK and is so much better. But what about the rules for baking at Altitude?

Most of us do not encounter these problems, but number 1 daughter did, when she lived in Mexico City. For the uninitiated Mexico City sits at 2400 metres which is about a mile and half, ( almost 8,000feet) so pretty high !

Lower Air pressure at high elevation causes air bubbles trapped to rise at a faster rate, resulting in either uprisen cake/ bread or dry or both.

To combat this proportions need to be changed as well as the oven temperature, at heights over 3;500 feet the oven needs to be at least 25 F higher than at sea level. Baking powder needs to be reduced, as does sugar, liquids need to be increased and certainly for anything over 7,000 feet these ingredients need considerable alteration as well as the baking time!

Then of course there is the flour. When I lived in Belgium I have part of The Hints class to American expats. My job was food and food related subjects. I was actually astounded that many of them were very naive about the food and country in which they were living. They too were astounded that a packet of frozen assorted, deep fried nibbles had horse meat in them! And why not ?

Many of them would trot off to Antwerp to the Robber Lady, who as an enterprising Belgian, imported American food stuffs ( flour included) and sold them on at exorbitant prices. But then again, there was the English equivalent, who many of the Brits could not live without. For me shopping in Belgium was a revelation, after Germany, where I found the shops rather dull, but now I find food in London just amazing, it’s availability and quality.

But I digress, yes flour is different, here we talk of strong flour ( bread flour) whereas in France they sell flour by numbers, and Baguettes are made with a Lean Flour, which is why they go stale quickly. Even so I bought the French equivalent of Bread Flour, but failed miserably to make a decent loaf and froze my Sourdough Starter for my return ( whenever that maybe.)

However help is at hand. I have a bread machine in France, for which I use a bread mix! Cheating I know, but when faced with driving down 7 snow covered hairpins, just to buy some bread it comes into its own. BINGO, whilst perusing a Lakeland catalogue, I came across Sourdough mix for Bread Machines, so I bought a bunch, already for our next French sortie! Cheating , I know, but when needs must !

166 Days ( early September 2020)

Iv’e just counted up! It is 166 days, since we were incarcerated! That is 166 x 3 equals 498 meals and for the most part meals for 2. Luckily it can be discounted a tad, as we don’t really “DO” lunch, but nonetheless it can be bread and cheese or a cup of soup ( homemade of course). It can also be discounted somewhat as we have dinner out, but just the once whilst in France ( thank you grandkids) and have had two Take Aways or rather called Take Ins! One a success from a Michelin starred Indian and one a disaster from a supposedly top Mexican Chef.

Otherwise it has been Dine at Home. And for the most part me. The exceptions being , Himself, once a week has created, very nicely done, thank you and whilst in France ( basically 5;weeks) we were 7, (and eldest daughter contributed ) and that equates to a lot of food !

When I think of grocery shopping, for me it has been easy, having cracked Waitrose booking system and now I have suppliers for Fish ( now three sources) fruit and vegetables several sources, wine a couple, and so on, but thinking back to my childhood, how did the housewives manage? Perhaps no refrigeration, no delivery service and a family to feed plus do all the housework, AND with no Mod Cons! How did my mother in law feed 5 growing boys? For that one has to admire her.

And so here we are, still at home and having taken much of the contents of my freezer to France this summer, I am in the process of restocking. I have tried an alternative fish company, as recommended by my neighbour Bob, Chapman’s. I would say about the same quality of fish and service as Ish Fish but with a better selection. In this latest delivery I was pleased to see that I could get skate wings, if you have never tried Skate, then for me it is a must. When we lived in Brussels I could get Skate wings from a Frozen food supplier and guess where they came from? The USA, Florida to be precise. I think Americans look upon Skate more as Sting Ray rather than a fish to eat.

This time around, from my new supplier I bought Hake, Skate and mackerel fillets ( for himself). Then from, Chalk Stream, trout farm I bought 12 trouts, all of which come vacuum packed ready to freeze and finally from Watts Farm, 2 large packs of fish pie mix, some of which I have already used to make fish curry.

This week, Himself had a birthday, and as were were not going out, I asked ( unusual for me) what he would like for his birthday dinner. The answer, Trout! As I has taken previously some trout to France, I had time to work out the best way to cook them on a Barbeque. The answer, actually was very simple. En papillote or rather fish wrapped in paper. This way the fish cooks beautifully, skin doesn’t stick, to grill or fish basket and little or no cleaning to do afterwards.

Very simply take a sheet of greaseproof paper, grease it with some olive oil, place the fish on it and make it like an envelope. Seal ( I stapled them shut). You could put some lemon or onion slices along with some dill in along with the trout. Place on a hot BQ grill and cook for about 10-15 mins. Do no turn over, all the juices will run out, but after 10 mins open the envelope a little and insert a fork or knife. If it slides in easily, then the fish is done.

Remove from the grill, and carefully tip put the fish onto a plate, then the underside will become the top, and it will be a really nice golden colour.

Serve with a salad or as I did, a mix of sautéed peppers, along with some anchovy butter.

As it was his birthday, Willowy Brunette had baked him a cake. A very moist Coconut cake with chocolate ganache icing.