London Day Four

I like cauliflower, but rarely eat it. I almost never cook roast dinners, hence those vegetables that go with a roast get forgotten. BUT I always make for Himself Cauliflower and Ham Gratin ( Cheese) which he really likes. I never eat it, too many calories and too much Carb.IMG_6330

Consequently, when I saw this recipe or idea the other day, Perfect sprang to mind, and probably as many calories, but it appealed to my taste buds more. Simple to make, can be a main dish, served with rice, or naan, or can be served with fish or meat.

This recipe is very much an experiment, add more or less what you like but her goes with the basics.

  • 1 cauliflower broken into small florets
  • onion chopped
  • about an inch of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
  • cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can chick pease ( or lentils)
  •  about 200 mils water or stock, use the water from the chick peas and make it up to 200 mls if being lazy and you have no stock.
  • Salt and/pepper to taste

Par boil the cauliflower as you would normally.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, garlic, ginger and spices, fry gently mix well. Add the coconut milk and stock/water along with the par boiled cauliflower and chick peas. Simmer for about 20 mins or so until the cauliflower is really tender.IMG_6426

Serve on top of rice, garnished with coriander.

London Day Three

Is it only day three, seems longer than that.

So today I made a cake, actually two cakes. I’m  not a natural baker, but I made the Claudia Roden/ Nigella Lawson/ my version of the Clementine cake. I have written about this already in my blog, and I use less sugar that called for in either of the other versions.


The other cake I made, and I have not done this in YEARS, was a Victoria Sandwich, decorated with butter cream and a few sprinkles of flaked almonds and a Candle. One of my neighbours turned 91 today, and obviously not allowed  out. But as he lives on the opposite of our building it was easy to deliver without violating and rules.IMG_4988

Lockdown London, Day two

Today, I made for dinner, one of my favourites, Tarte au Fromage de l’Abondance.

I have made this several times, but has been more or less hit or miss. This version I think was the best yet.

On my blog I have written in the past but this time I used 1/3 Abondance Cheese, 1/3 Comte and 1/3 Beaufort.

Abondance comes from the Haute Savoie region of France , mainly in a village of the same name. Beaufort also comes from the Savoie, whereas Comté comes from Franche Comté. All of these can be bought in the UK, but unfortunately at a price. Consequently I bring them back from France as they freeze well.

Day One+London+Fish Pie

Ok, so I am cheating  just a tad here. I started my project on Sunday, actually a few days before. It was not panic buying but forward planning.

We usually go to Billingsgate, the Fish Market for London, and for much of the UK. It means an early morning outing, we have to drive so we go on a Saturday. By 7 am trading is almost over for the day so it really has to be a very early start. However, for whatever reason, we have not been in a while and obviously we abandoned any idea of visiting there now. What to do, what to do? I googled online fish delivery sites, and having recently been to Whitby Yorkshire, the home of the Whitby Catch, I knew that these sites existed.

I found plenty, from Whitby to Scotland, to Wales, to Ireland and to Devon and Cornwall, They all looked tempting fresh fish, packed and delivered to my door. My next question, was, what was I going to buy. Normally when at Billingsgate, we have a wander around and then decided, a whole Salmon, here or 30 Sea Bass, there or maybe vacuum packed Tuna. Much of the produce needs seeing to, inso much as  cleaning, skinning boning, etc. I already knew how to do this, from my childhood, catching our own fish, but Himself needed instruction, and now he is a dab hand. The advantage of the “do It Yourself” is, Stock!! After such a trip I always have stock, which I freeze. Sadly today the stock has been disposed of, no more room in the freezer! Back to what fish I was going to buy. I finally settled on a company called ISHFish, because it offered a selection box. Not as a Christmas selection box of Chocolates but a selection box of Fish. My box contained, 4 portions of Salmon, 4 of Cod, 2 of Haddock, 2 Sea Bass, 2 Smoked Haddock a packet of Smoked Salmon and 500 grams of Fish Pie Mix. I could have added extras to this but did not. It came in a matter of days, all vacuum packed ready to freeze and packed in ice. I was duly impressed.

Hence, the dinner of choice was obvious. Fish Pie. I have made my version of Fish Pie for years, but was there an alternative out there? and the answer is Yes of course, and so here it is the lates version. With Apologies to  Richard Corrigan at Bentleys.IMG_9050

For the Sauce

  •  100 Grams butter
  • 150 mls white wine
  • 1 1/2 pints regular milk ( or 1 pint milk and 1 1/2 pint cream if you are being very wicked)
  • 100 grams flour or 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon English Mustard
  • a good shake of Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste
  • Squeeze lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Pie

  • 1 Kilo potatoes + a small amount butter or olive oil.
  • 2 eggs hard boiled, roughly chopped
  • 500 grams mixed fish, if you have shrimp so much the better
  • 200 grams smoked haddock
  • grated parmesan ( or Emmental for the topping)
  • 100 grams butter
  • 2 crushed cloves garlic
  • 1 chopped onion
  • piece of chopped ginger

To cook the fish, sweat the onions, garlic and ginger together, add half a pint of milk and then add the fish and simmer gently until cooked.

Boil the potatoes until cooked and then  mash roughly with a little butter or olive oil.

I make the sauce by putting the butter, milk, white wine and flour/ corn starch into a Microwave jug and heat at one minute intervals and stir in-between each heating. The mixture will amalgamate and if by any chance it goes lumpy, never fear, a whisk, preferably an electric one, will soon sort it out. Taste and add seasoning, along with the lemon juice, english mustard and tabasco to taste.

Mix the fish and the sauce together along with the chopped eggs.

Put into a casserole dish, top with the mashed potatoes and finally the cheese. can decorate with some tomatoes as well. Bake for about  20-30 mins at about 180 C.

Serve piping hot, maybe with some salad. And for the left overs, put into portions when cold and freeze. defrost before reheating.




Stock Piling ? Not me!

Stock Piling? No not me! It is just that I always have STUFF, my daughter in law, once described my kitchen cupboards as a Tardis ( Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) .

I had to look it up, in my jargon it would have been and Aladdin’s cave, except I know where everything is! Spices and herbs, Chillis and sauces, beans and rices, flour and flours, it is all there. Simply put, I never know what I am going to cook from one day to the next. Then we move onto freezers ( note the plural), one tall, and one short both neatly stacked,  soups and meat and fish all flat vacuumed packed and everything in its place, I can direct you, second drawer down, you will find xxxx. I actually think I’m a bit OCD , ah well !

But back to this week. Last Sunday being thwarted and not being able to visit our newest grandchild ( Baby Molly) we diverted via Costco! On a Sunday? We must have been mad, actually it was not too bad. Were people stocking up on Loo Rolls, I’ve no idea! The place always amazes me, there are those who have mounds of goods and those who go there to buy one or two items, and then we are in the middle.

We bought what we went for and more, of course, after all this is Costco, ( a dangerous place Costco) and then what was I going to do with the boned leg of lamb ?

Inspiration hit me and so I cooked my favourite Indian curry. I hesitate in calling it a curry, there is no Ghee and no curry powder either, but nonetheless spicy and delicious. I think my ghee/ curry phobe daughter might even like it.

Rajasthani Laal Maas is a fiery ( though you can make it as hot or not as you like) Lamb Curry form the Rajasthan part of India. We visited Rajasthan and the golden triangle several times whilst # 1 daughter was living there, staying in a variety of accommodations ranging from Maharajahs old palaces to tents on tiger reserves. For me the stand out meal was Laal Maas and as soon as I returned to the UK set about finding out all about this wonderful dish.IMG_9116

  • 1 kilo lamb cut into bite size pieces
    • 5 teaspoon red chilli powder ( traditionally kashmiri chillies are used, deep red and hot)
    • 4 sliced onions
    • salt as required
    • 4 cloves of garlic  chopped
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • oil for frying
    • 3 teaspoon coriander powder
    • 1 cup yoghurt 
    • 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
    • 3 teaspoon garam masala powder
    • 6 green cardamom
    • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
    • 2 inches fresh ginger, chopped
  • Method
  • In a deep bottomed pan add some oil  Once hot, add cinnamon sticks, cardamom Sauté for 3-5 minutes.

  • Now, add the lamb pieces, and sauté  to seal. Then add the onions, ginger, garlic, yogurt, turmeric and salt. Cook covered on a low heat  until the lamb  is soft.

  • Add the powdered spices (except garam masala) and stir in and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes

  • Now, add one cup water, garam masala and again simmer for 5-7 minutes.

  • Step 5

    Serve hot with streamed rice or paratha. and garnish with chopped coriander leaves

    This dish can be made as spicy ( hot) or as mild as you like. Traditionally it is very red and very spicy hot.too spicy, then add some more yoghurt or some potatoes, they will absorb some of the heat.

You say TOM -ART-Toe and I say Tom-Mate-Toe !

So goes the famous song once sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and of course Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

But tomatoes, it never occurred to me that people might not know that there is a right and wrong way to cut tomatoes. Does it really matter? In reality I suppose not, after all sliced or diced, they are eaten anyway.

Tomatoes are fruits, which we tend to eat as vegetables.

Any thing that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds out into the world is a fruit.”

That definition includes apples, tomatoes, and anything else that grows from a plant and contains seeds. Cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, and avocados are all fruits too.

Rhubarb on the other hand is a vegetable, but nearly always used as a fruit, and was declared that it is a FRUIT by a New York Court in 1947 ! Seriously, changing nature by a Law!

The most important item when preparing tomatoes, is a knife or two. Not just any old knife, either a fine serrated knife, or I prefer a very sharp straight edge knife, and a sharp paring knife ( this is a small one), and also a grapefruit knife comes in handy.But they must be sharp, secondly a chopping board, of your choosing.

tomato that has been cored

Generally speaking the core needs to be removed, this is where the tomato was attached to the plant and is thick. To do this, hold the tomato firmly with one hand. and insert the tip of the paring knife into the tomato and cut an angled circle around the core. and remove it.

Once the core is removed tomatoes can be quartered ( or smaller wedges), slices and stuffed.IMG_9869

Slices, now there is a point. Slices need to be cut from the stem end ( or the other way round) But never slicing down the side of the stem. Why? does it make a difference. Well aesthetically they just look better done the right way ( don’t you dare enter Master Chef and cut them the wrong way), but also the pulp tends to fall out and looking at the images, you will see that the ones cut correctly are much more symmetrical in appearance, hence in a Tomato and Mozzarella salad where appearance is everything, it is very important.

(the above show the stalk end of the tomatoes, tomatoes wrongly sliced and those correctly sliced)

If you do not like the skin ( stuffed tomatoes are so much better skinless), then it needs to be removed, and there is a simple way in which to do this. Prick the cored tomato in several places with a skewer and place in a cup or jug of boiling water for several minutes , remove from the water and with a sharp knife peel away the skin. Unfortunately, my mother had not learnt this. One day I called and she was unhappy as her tomato had fallen on the floor, whilst she attempted to peel it with a potato peeler ! Today on can actually buy a potato peeler look alike which does peel very finely, so it is also a solution.

And lastly, stuffed tomatoes. One does not have to be a good cook to make this very simple, but attractive starter. Removing the middle of the tomato is relatively simple, but especially so if you have a Grapefruit knife.

The Victorians ( in England at least) had a gadget for everything, a  bread fork here, a grapefruit knife there, a silver container for crackers, or a wooden dish especially for stilton cheese. Knives and forks for fruit and others for cheese, a device for holding a leg of lamb for carving and another for Fois Gras. Cake servers and a cross between a server and fork for Angle food cake. Grape scissors,  little fork for pickles ,a silver bread basket ladles both big and small, asparagus tongs ( as well as special plates), cake stands and fruit bowls, there was no end to the inventiveness of the Victorians!

Back to emptying the tomato, cut off the top and simply using a sharp knife ( grapefruit knife of even grapefruit spoons) gently carve out the innards and discard. Today with so many ready prepared fillings from Hummus to Egg Mayonnaise, just choose a filling you fancy and serve on a bed of salad.

Many supermarket tomatoes are rather bland and tasteless, many more are now selling “on the Vine”, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these have been grown outdoors and have that wonderful aroma, they don’t , but I have to say they are better than some. If you have the chance to go to a farm shop, when tomatoes are really in season, then do so, or grow your own. The trouble with that of course, it is feast or famine, as they all come at once !!

A Bleeding Heart!

What did you do on Valentines Day? Here in the UK we say Valentines Day, the same as we say New Years day, whereas in the US it is “Happy Valentines” or ” what are you doing for “New Years”?IMG_1227

Anyway, however you call it, what did you do? Himself has been banned from buying me flowers for Valentines ( see just the one word) and No way Red Roses. However, he broke the rules, as he sets himself a mental check list and ticks it off in his mind…….Mission accomplished.

This year, and it is beginning to become a bit of a marathon. Two daughters, three granddaughters not to mention the wife! And he succeeded, job done for another year. Thank goodness we have Marks and Spencer delivery service.

What did I do ? Firstly, I bought himself some Krispy Kreme Valentines doughnuts. Not that he needed them, but he actually does like them, and they do freeze, if you are wondering. Then I had friends for dinner and the task I set myself was a red, or pink dinner!IMG_4477

For starters we had, Crotin de Chavignol on salad with cherries, pomegranite  seeds, slivers of beetroot and raspberry dressing.

Main was Salmon en croute with sautéed beetroot, gnocchi on a tomato base and roasted baby vine tomatoes.

But my pièces de résitance were desserts. I actually rarely make desserts, I don’t need them but if I do make dessert it is usually something I can freeze, then himself can help himself!IMG_9768

Here we had, an Upside down Rhubarb cake,  Cheese Ice cream with speculoos dust and raspberries, Strawberries dipped in white chocolate and a Bleeding heart. Actually it is called a Cœur à la Crème, and is amazingly simple to make and looks beautiful.IMG_2176

The only problem with making this dish, is the mould. It does not have to be heart shaped, but would help, as it is a heart shape dessert. I have googled and found one, and I have listed it below.

Screenshot 2020-02-16 at 14.32.03

Alternatively, take a silicon cake mould and using a skewer pierce several holes in the bottom of the mould. It is necessary so that the whey can drain out, which will make the dessert firm enough to un-mould.

To make a Cœur à la crème you will need:-

  1. 2 8oz packets of soft cream cheese ( like Philadelphia)
  2. 600 mls of double cream
  3. 4 egg whites, whisked until stiff
  4. 1 tablespoon of fine white sugar.
  5. packet of frozen raspberries defrosted, sugar to taste and juice of 1/2 lemon.

Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Beat in another container the cream cheese, sugar and cream together ( I use a food processor). Carefully stir in the egg whites until well blended together. Line the mould with dampened muslin ( or I used a new J Cloth). Scoop in the mixture, cover with cling film, refrigerate and leave to drain and set over night.

Puree the raspberries and put through a sieve ( get rid of those bits) Add the lemon juice and sugar to taste.

When ready to serve, invert the dessert onto a plate, pour over the raspberry coulis and serve.