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!

    Week Nine, Day Three ( Tuesday)

    Have been dreaming of times gone by, times travelling and of all things currently cancelled. Absolutely, Nothing fun in the diary, well maybe not strictly true, but things that are bound to be cancelled, claiming yet another refund.

    Today, I escaped for about an hour, we wondered down the street and ventured into Selfridges Food Hall. ( see the flowers above) As super as usual, beautiful as usual, but No Champagne Bar! My daughters and I frequented it often in the early 2,000’s. We went especially to buy Mussels, as I have said before, we are great fans of Mussels and HIMSELF declared he really fancied Mussels for dinner, and he will cook!

    My day, well part of it has been making Scrub Caps, for willowy Brunette, she needs them ( along with Surgical gowns) for when Dentists are allowed to return to work. So after a few hitches, as obviously we do need them to be extra special , I have succeeded and now have the production line down to a mere 20 minutes and am sure I can get it down to 10, but how many does she need?

    Today, the only thing I managed to cook, but not really cook, was some Ice-cream. I had some really manky bananas, was a bit tired of making banana bread ( and besides Himself doesn’t really need another cake AND willowy Brunette has started baking …… she doesn’t eat them but delivers them for her Father! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Not that my ice cream is any less calorific but never mind.

    The Ice Cream I make is very easy, especially if you have a) a food processor and b) and Ice Cream machine. Obviously the best type of Ice Cream machine is one that has a built in refrigeration unit otherwise the smaller cheaper ones have to be placed in the freezer to get cold, and of course, space always come at a premium, especially now. I have had refrigeration type since 1983 when we moved from Texas to Belgium. The one good thing to come out of Texas ( and I am being a bit mean here) is ICE CREAM, or so my kids who were small at the time thought and Belgian Ice Cream at the time was Rubbish, and so I bought a machine !This the famous Ice Cream ship in Barcelona, was a bit underwhelmed, I must say.

    The Ice Cream I made today was Banana, ( obviously as I had yucky bananas) and the recipe says, the browner the better.

    1. 2 large eggs
    2. 200 grams sugar ( caster is best)
    3. 500 Mls double cream
    4. 200 Mls milk

    This is the basic ice cream recipe, mix well together, and whilst mixing and the best way is I a food processor to failing that a hand blender, throw in the mushy bananas. Then, if you have an ice cream machine, simply scrap it tinpot the machine, otherwise pour into a fairly shallow freezer proof container and put into the freezer, stir every hour to mix well.

    Alternatives or rather additions could be:-

    1. dried bananas with chopped dates ( Holland and Barrett sell these),
    2. buy some chocolate fudge and chop into bits and add the unfrozen mixture,
    3. Mix a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon and a couple of tablespoons of dark rum
    4. A couple of tablespoons of dark rum and raisins
    5. 1/2 cup soft peanut butter , smooth or chunky
    6. 1/2 cup soft almond butter
    7. 4 oz chocolate melted added to the unfrozen mixture.

    For me the “Go To” Ice Cream Book is Ben and Jerry’s a couple of Artisan Ice Cream Guys, before they sold out to Unilever in 2000.

  • Week Nine, Day Two ( Monday)

    As I’m losing track of the days, I have started adding the actual day in the title!

    For someone who really likes grocery shopping these nine weeks have been a real learning curve for me. I don’t have to go to the grocery store, things miraculously appear on my door step.

    In former Times I had my “Go To” stores. Starting out in the countryside, for when I was in the car, Lidl, one of the two German low cost stores. I remember them from when I lived in Southern Germany, a life time ago, it really was the only one near where I lived. What I like about it now, is it is small, I Hate the mega grocery stores, total time wasting. So it is a quick in and out and their fresh produce has such a quick turn over, it is usually pretty good.

    Also when I was out and about, once in a while it was Quality Foods, in Hayes. The Indian Visa office used to be located next door, ( which is why I knew it was there).This is a much larger store than I like But it is never busy. It is a basically Indian/ Asian supermarket, and outside, in a covered area an array of fruit and vegetables, some of which I haven’t a clue as to what they are. I always mean to go armed with my book , but never do.( see below for the ultimate guide to Vegetables!

    Next on my list, but still needing a car is Hoo Hing on Hanger Lane, another ethnic store, and again not usually busy. It caters to all things Chinese and the Far East and I think most of the customers are from restaurants.( and apparently they too deliver, though I’ve yet to try), they do have smaller versions in China Town , but as you can imagine, Very Busy !

    Having said I don’t like large stores, I can’t resist Costco, the American super store. This I can’t resist, here I get my American fix, but they too deliver!

    And then, closer to home, Waitrose, who of course deliver, but there is a smallish one close by, so I would go with trolley in hand. And likewise the wonderful food store of Marks and Spencer at Marble Arch ( and they too deliver ).And Finally, just across the street, two small versions of UK supermarkets, plus a myriad of local ethnic stores.

    But currently, I’m into online shopping, Waitrose, Costco, Ish Fish and Greens for Fruit and vegetables ( and other supplies).

    Today, I rummaged in the second drawer of number two freezer, and came across a packet of smoked mackerel ( actually I did know it was there). It had been languishing there for a while as I couldn’t decided what to do with it. It had been bought because Himself likes mackerel, and me, not so much. However on the weekend, inspiration leapt out of the newspaper and hit me. Smoked Mackerel Pâté, there was the answer. And yes I had all that I needed and then some.

    Simplicity itself, all that I really lacked were some decent crackers so crispbread, broken in two, had to suffice.

    1. 1 packet of smoked mackerel, about 250 grams
    2. Tbsp cream, crèche fresh or sour cream
    3. Tbsp mayonnaise
    4. At least a tsp of prepared horseradish sauce, more if you want
    5. Salt and pepper to taste.
    6. Juice of half a lemon

    You can either do this by hand, by mushing the mackerel with a fork and then stirring in the other ingredients, or throwing all into a food processor and giving it a quick blitz, I say quick, too long and it will really be mush. Put into a dish and refrigerate for maybe an hour so that it is firm, serve on crackers.

    Week Nine, Day One ( Sunday)

    Another week has zoomed on by but this time around we have a modicum of freedom, albeit the Rules are not that clear, Can we? Can’t-we? Who knows! We shall carry on as before, parfum extraordinaire, Eau de Disinfectant, the masks the shoes, the groceries, the packets, I think I will remember the smell for a long time to come! But at least for us the golf course is open, so it is at least some distraction. My kids say for us ‘ Rien ne change!’ Well it does, of course, the trips, all cancelled, and no dining out, but Hey Ho, Onwards and Upwards!

    Sandwiched between Sunday cocktails and Sunday Story Time, Dinner takes third place, but that too is fine, after all, where am I going, nowhere!

    Today it is fish ( and my neighbour said, fish? You eat a lot of fish , we eat chicken !) well, yes again it is fish, and this time round it is Halibut, as when I ordered from Ish Fish, I though I would try some. Actually I have never cooked Halibut previously, but there is no reason why it should not be as easy as any other fish.

    I’m going to pan fry it and serve it with a a Puttanesca dressing. Puttan, apparently means Tart or Whore, but Puttanesca can also mean a mix of Peppers, capers etc , but calling it Tarts Sauce is amusing !

    1. For the sauce for 4 people
    2. 4 red peppers, de seeded, cut into slices and grilled
    3. 3 tabs good olive oil
    4. 12 cherry tomatoes
    5. 12 pitted olives, ( good ones)
    6. 2 tabs capers, drained
    7. Some shredded basil leaves
    8. Some salt and pepper
    9. Some cloves of garlic
    10. Butter or oil for pan frying
  • Start by grilling the peppers, and the garlic, . Heat the olive oil, add the tomatoes and then the peppers and garlic., just before serving add the olives and capers.
  • Dip the Halibut in flour, heat the oil/ butter and when it stops bubbling add the fish and cook for about 4 mins on each side.
  • Arrange the fish on the plate and arrange the sauce on top.
  • I served with asparagus ( again) and Gnocchi ( again, from the freezer), and apart from grilling the peppers, a really quick dinner, especially having the Gnocchi already made.
  • And the result ? We will have it again. Can be made with any firm chunky white fish, cod, haddock etc.