All is Forgiven

Friday and Saturday, turned out to be His turn! I say Turn and not TURNS, as he started his meal on the Friday so that it could be finished on the Saturday. And I have to say it was well worth the wait!

He produced NOUM BUNCHJOP, this a dish from Cambodia, where we enjoyed a visit two years ago. Two Years, doesn’t seem possible, but it has to be as we have been shut up for most of last year. We really enjoy Asian food and so for the most part, he turns to Rick Steins, Far Eastern Odyssey, a cook book that meanders through Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, SriLanka and Bangladesh. We haven’t yet visited the last three countries on that list and maybe one day when we can travel again !

When we visited Cambodia, we floated down the Mekong ( or was it up) from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh. And given the size of the Mekong delta it is easy to see why fish is so very popular. In Siem Reap, the home of the world famous Angkor Wat, we took a trip out on a lake called Tonle Sap Lake where there is actually a water population, people live and work in floating villages which even includes a school.

Tonle Sap Lake

To make HIS version of this dish you will need

  • 250 grms fish. He used a ready prepared fish pie mix
  • Some lemon grass chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-4 green / red chillies chopped
  • A thumb sized piece ginger chopped
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 2 tsp fish paste ( available from Asian supermarkets)
  • Juice of one lime or a good squirt from a bottle
  • 400 ml can coconut milk
  1. Cook the fish in some water for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and drain ( keep some of the liquid)
  2. When cool , break into flakes
  3. Put all of the other ingredients into a food processor and blitz to make a smooth paste.
  4. Add the fish to the paste blitz again add some of the cooking liquid if too thick, it should be of a thick soup consistency

To serve, make a crunchy mixed salad using celery , spring onions, baby gem lettuce, shredded, grated carrots etc.

Also cook some Asian noodles, these take no time at all and buy some ( or make ) some Asian style peanut sauce.

He used some peanut butter mixed with some palm sugar, some fish sauce and some lime juice, quantities were a little of this and a little of that!

Put some noodles into the bottom of each bowl and top with the soup and then the crunchy salad .

What did do? I made some more Bagels, and now I feel that I am on a roll, the trouble is that each batch only makes 8! And I also fancy making doughnuts. My eldest grandson when living in Mexico City, these were his favourites, not that he is coming to stay anytime soon, but need to get them perfected for when he does !

Bananas, Bananas, Bananas

Himself seems to have taken himself off the cooking detail recently. Each day, it is, ” I’ll cook” looks at the cookery books, and that is as far as it gets! ( Three days now and counting), even Young Sam told me he had ” Done” dinner the other day!

Reminds me of a friend whose husband bought her a new sewing machine. After a week or two, the curtain fabric was till there not having moved, when he asked Why, she replied, well you didn’t tell the machine to start sewing !

Maybe I need to tell Himself to start cooking and not just think about it!

Most of our food stuffs are now delivered, I have sourced not one but three fish delivery companies, ( Ish Fish, Chapmans Fish and Chalk Stream, ) the wonderful Watts Farm for most things, particularly fruit and vegetables and all sorts of things, and then there is Waitrose and Costco for all the rest.

Trout from Chalk Stream ready for the freezer

And then of course 2 seconds away, several small stores. Himself is dispatched, usually to get milk but sometimes other supplies, but maybe I should specify only get 6 bananas, because as we well know, bananas don’t keep very well.

So what to do with excess overripe bananas. My fall back portion is usually throw them into the freezer and then think about it. Up until now, they were put in, as is, ie, literally as they were, in their skins, but a couple of weeks ago, when I had 6 over ripe bananas, I peeled them, sprinkled on some lemon juice, wrapped them in cling film and then froze them. The question still remained. What to do with a bunch of overripe bananas.

Yesterday’s solution was ICE CREAM.

Peanut Butter and Banana Ice cream. I’m in love with Ben and Jerry’s recipe book, which I have had for YEARS. Ben and Jerry were good ‘Ol Boys, who started out wanting to make and sell Bagels, or so I believe, but very quickly switched to Ice Cream. Theirs was the fun stuff, Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Rocky Road and many more. However they sold out to Unilever ( Boo Hoo) but I have two copies of their ” Bible” of Ice Cream Recipes and inspirations, one here and the other in France. I use it very much as a guide adding more or less of an ingredient as I think fit. The best part is that practically all of their recipes start with a basic base, that needs No COOKING, how easy is that ?

I used the following for my Ice Cream:-

  • 1 large carton double cream (500 grms)
  • 1 large carton plain Greek yoghurt ( not fat free)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, preferably caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 over ripe bananas
  • 1/2- 1 cup of smooth good peanut butter ( I use from Holland and Barrett’s, in the USA it is Laura Scudders, both ( I think) do not use additives.Squirt of lemon juice on the bananas.
    Mush the bananas with a fork and add a squirt of lemon juice.
  1. Whisk the eggs until light, add the sugar, then add the cream and yoghurt. I do all of this in my food processor.
  2. Add the bananas and then the peanut butter and process until well blended.
  3. Either freeze using an Ice Cream machine or put into a container in the freezer. If doin this then blend a couple of times during the freezing process.

I have to admit that this is not my favourite, I’m no over keen on banana flavoured foods, but love peanut butter, but for himself, it means that failing all else, there is always dessert.

The other thing I did yesterday was to make Marmalade. It is Marmalade making season, so just had to make some. It was only putting my jars away did I realise that Lockdown #1, #2 and now #3 has increased my store of jams, jellies and marmalade exponentially, especially as it is only himself who indulges and then only about once a week ! Oops have I over done it ? I guess so !

Boxes, Boxes, Boxes everywhere and not a lid that fits !

I think that after +/-30 years of boxes and by boxes, I mean plastic ones of various hues and sizes, I might have got the problem of missing lids, or lids that don’t fit solved. Not by me, you understand, but by the brothers Joseph.

Jospeh Jospeh is an English company started by twin brothers in 2002. Not that I have been a great fan of theirs, the beautifully stylish dish brush, dies quickly, its bristles are just not up to the job. And I actually abhor the latest trend for all colours to be garish, lime green or yellow or bright blue , pink or purple. Plastic well designed articles that we are led to believe will make our kitchens or bathrooms a better place. But I know what works in my kitchen, I like wood for stirring and absolutely detest glass chopping boards for cutting, oh the noise of the knife on the board !

However, for 30+ years I hadn’t really come up with a solution for plastic boxes and their lids! When I had kids at home I had drawers full of them but even now they are essential, for that bit of left over, or for freezing liquids into a nice shape, before vacuum packing and storing. But the lids were always a problem. Somehow or other they had a mind of their own and many would just go Walkabout, to Who Knows Where!

Back in the 90’s help was at hand in the form of Patrick, the entrepreneur husband of a friend. My friend also had problems with boxes and lids and his solution was in fact very simple. Get a waterproof marker and number the boxes and their lids. This we duly did, threw away lids without boxes or boxes without lids. This I have done ever since, even as recently as last summer, when I enlisted the aid of grandchildren whilst in France.

More recently in London, I have been buying boxes from the Chinese supermarket,the equivalent of take away boxes, this too thwarted my box organisation, because unbeknownst to me, not all Chinese take away boxes are equal, so yet again rummaging to find the right lid to box.

The Joseph Brothers boxes are simplicity, three sizes, colour coded, orange, red or blue depending on size and even better, they all click into each other, so no more boxes floating around the cupboard or drawer! ( Now why didn’t I think of that ?)

Have I told you about gravy?

I myself am not over keen on gravy. Growing up gravy was Bisto. Was there another way? Not that I knew, and I was a fussy eater, there was no way to find out. And now, as we rarely have a roast dinner, my gravy making skills were rarely called upon.

However, there are occasions when it is needed and as Himself loves sausages with creamy mashed potatoes and onion gravy I had to step up to the plate, and I did.

Therefore I have been making an onion gravy now for several years, but it is seriously a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I got my inspiration many, many years ago whilst giving cooking classes in Brussels. One of my go to books at that time was by Anthony Worrall Thompson ( he of pocketing cheese from Waitrose Fame). Basically, it is a cross between a Barbecue sauce, a Sauce Chasseur, a Sauce Poivrade or a Cumberland sauce.

To start with here is a list of possible ingredients

  • 3 fairly large onions , red or white
  • A good splash of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 red wine
  • 1/4 cup red port or sherry
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of jam/jelly ( red currant, bramble, black currant etc
  • 1tablespoon horseradish sauce

Chop the onions and sauté gently in the oil for several minutes until they brown, stir occasionally and make sure you get the brown stuff from the bottom of the pan.

Pour in the red wine and stir well to get all of the good bits incorporated.

Add the rest of the ingredients, one by one and stir in well. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. If too thick, dilute with some stock, water or even more red wine. Taste. It is unlikely to need salt.

Leave to cool and then flat bag in plastic bags and freeze. It freezes really well so I always make a fair bit as it is always there, if you have to start from scratch each time, it is a bit of a pain, but never reach for the ready made stuff, this is so much better, so much so that if I liked Sausages and Mash, even I would eat the gravy !

Some further thoughts on Christmas Food

Growing up my memories of Christmas was food. My mother would spend weeks making Stuff for Christmas, and given that we were just four people it was probably a bit over the top. She would make a Christmas cake, of course, Christmas puddings, of course, and another cake she called it a Tunis Cake. They were available in the shops, but she was a baker. A Tunis cake was a Madeira Cake the top covered with a thick layer of dark chocolate along with a few marzipan balls made to look like fruit and holly.

She also made fancy cup cakes, in the form of butterflies, cabbages and even cauliflowers, madeleines, tall sponge cakes covered in jam and shredded coconut, and many others that I can’t remember what they were, but we had them all.

Oftentimes we spent Christmas Day at my grandmothers, who lived not a million miles away and we were fortunate to have a car ( most people I knew didn’t have one) . Nanny lived with her youngest daughter ( there were three daughters) and for the most part was cook in chief, but in latter years the role was taken over by Aunty Brenda. Brenda was a Feeder. Would you like a biscuit, a jam tart, a cake, a bit of toast, another biscuit. Hers, was the table laden with whatever might just take your fancy. My fancy was always CHIPS, not for me the roast turkey, the roast potatoes, the Brussels sprouts, the sausage rolls or mince pies, but Chips, and Uncle Bob could always be relied upon to produce them, just for me !

I could however be persuaded to try just a tincy wincy bit of Christmas pudding because there were always silver coins wrapped in paper hidden inside.

The other food memory of Christmas was celery, yes celery. Washed and trimmed and standing straight in their special jar. Were you aware that there are such things as celery jars? ( another Victorian invention ). Actually I don’t have one but they have been part of my life since forever, but who can imagine sitting down for Christmas tea with a jar of celery stalks by its side?

An antique celery jar priced at £180

Being an unbelievably fussy eater, I think my mother was pleased that I at least ate celery. So much so that she made me celery and cream cheese sandwiches for my school lunches! Not for me the stodge that was served up on a daily basis, which was School Meals .

But I digress. Christmas food, Christmas afternoon tea. This year I managed to fit in, in between various Lockdowns, an afternoon tea at the splendid RAC club on Pall Mall. It was for the “Girls” and so my girls and eldest granddaughter met for our tea.

Christmas at the RAC Club

Unfortunately, I think the next day became our second lock down, hence although the tea was lovely, complete with the requisite “Bubbles” for the Big Girls, there was only one other table occupied! Still as my eldest said ” This year we will take what we can get! Never a truer word! And they even produced extra Sausage Rolls for Miss Tess, and for once in our life I allowed a “Doggy Bag” and she took the excess home for her brothers ( who had not been invited).

So moving swiftly on or rather back to sausage rolls. Synonymous with Christmas, rugby matches and golf or all things English! However have I have commented previously I find English Sausage meat BLAND! So I set myself a challenge to make them satisfied. I tried adding red onion chutney, only OK, English mustard powder, again only OK. Then it struck me. Merguez.

Merguez is a a sausage of Middle Eastern origins, but popular in France  made with uncooked lamb or beef. It is heavily spiced with cumin and harissa, which gives them their red colour.

I despatched himself to our local Middle Eastern Stores, of which there are many, but he failed to find my sausages, but not wishing to disappoint, bought Chorizo! Very innovative. Consequently, I threw it into the food processor to make a fine mush of chorizo and then mixed it all with the English sausage meat. The result was very satisfying. More for adults than for children, but presented them to my neighbours during our terraced distanced cocktails. I think I have it !

Two batches of Sausage Rolls

January 2021

Here we are in January, barely in January, not finished yet with Christmas Food and where are we? Back in Lockdown!

Onwards and Upwards, have a plan, morning walk at sunrise, come rain or shine ( more like rain), have a soak in the sauna,( make sure it switched on before said walk) breakfast, cafe latte, crossword, shower wash and dress ( PJ’s and sweat pants not allowed) . Well that brings us up to well, maybe 11 am. What to do for the rest of the day? Our one allowed exercise has been done, what else! We seem to have accumulated jigsaws and their accoutrements ( thanks kids) all of extreme difficulty. That will keep himself busy for a while.

Cleaning, sorting and sorting 50 years of photos, is another job that has been beckoning for a long while! When you have moved as often as we have, ( 17 for us more like 25 for me) a clear out is always done, so we don’t have an abyss or an overstuffed attic or vault or dungeon, but there are things that have been kept for sorting at a later stage, like the boxes of photos! IT HAS TO BE DONE!

Himself has cleaned the silver and myself the crystal and now what?

I decided to make Bagels. Never done it before, no that is a lie, tried about 20 years ago in Texas but not since. This time around, I happen to to have fresh yeast courtesy of the wonderful Watts Farm. I bought it with my first foray into Watts Farm shopping. It came in little packs, but then I got sidetracked and yeast went into the freezer and yes fresh yeast freezes well! For whatever reason I am not much of a dab hand with dried yeast, but fresh is a piece of cake.

I must admit to cheating here, as I bought during Lockdown #1 a small bread machine though I have only ever used it for the kneading/ rising process ( is this being lazy or what ), but nonetheless the kneading is perfect except when I forget about it and it has risen so much that it is like the day of the triffids and spilling upwards and out of the machine! Mental note to myself, Listen for the Beep !

Bagel making is not difficult jut a tad time consuming but the end result worth while. To make 8 bagels you will need

  • 1 cube fresh yeast ( it comes in cubes of about 42 grms) or 6 grms active dried yeast
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 300 mls warm ( not hot) water
  • 450 grms strong flour ( sometimes labels Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Method

  • Mix the sugar with the yeast and about 120 mls of the water. It will mix into a smooth creamy coloured liquid.
  • Then either mix this with the flour by hand or in a machine if using one ( follow instructions)
  • By hand, knead the dough for about 10 minutes , ( this is why I use the machine, it does it all for you). Again by hand place the dough into an oiled bowl , cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.
  • When the dough has risen, knock it back, this means basically deflating it and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  • Dived into 8 equal amounts, I weighed each bit, and roll each bit around on a floured counter top to form a ball.
  • Push a finger through the center of each dough ball so that it forms a ring, using the palm of your hand press on the dough ball to flatten somewhat.
  • Place on either a greased baking tray or on a non stick one and again cover with a damp cloth and leave to rest for another 10 minutes! ( dough likes to have a little nap in between each handling !)
  • Heat the oven to 220C fan/220C non fan/gas7
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop in the bagels, as many as will fit without being overcrowded. They will float to the surface, flip over and leave for a minute. If you like chewy bagels leave for 2 minutes.
  • Remove bagels from water with a slotted spoon and place back on the baking sheet, glaze with an egg wash.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes multilingual golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack. When cool store in a bread bin, or as with all breads, they freeze well!

Happy 2021 ( here’s hoping)

Our New Year’s Eve, was as normal, quiet but normally we watch the London fireworks as we can see them from our living room window. The Willowy brunette who is in our bubble was with us and brought along Champagne and an amazing cheesecake. She, ( who doesn’t cook) in fact made two of them and dropped one off for her sister in Finchley before heading off to look at teeth( she is a dentist).

My normal Christmas dinner insists of Seafood, Seafood and more seafood, as I don’t cook on Christmas Day, but this year I broke my own rule and cooked, so in my mind, Christmas Day became New Years Eve and as I cast my eye around the various options for this day/ night of dubious celebrations I came upon Bibendum a restaurant in London, run by Claude Bossi, and with 2 Michelin Stars. The restaurant is house in what was once the iconic Michelin Building and is divided into 2 sections, the main restaurant and the Oyster Bar.

The Oyster Bar was offering a New Years Take Away, Seafood Platter and so I ordered on for three people. It looked amazing and cam complete with extras, sauces and dips as well as a wonderful dark brown loaf and a roll of butter.

The only thing it lacked was the cocktail sauce.

I think most people in The UK ( and I could be wrong here) eat shrimp and prawns with a Marie Rose sauce, a pale pink creation of dubious provenance. Having lived on the Gulf Coast of the USA, I have to admit to preferring the American version, a red cocktail sauce, also I suspect of dubious origins, but however, very easy to make a simplified version at home.

Himself had pottered on down to Selfridges, where he had on order 24 oysters ( just in case the platter didn’t live up to hype) and then wandered over to Chelsea to collect our platter. It was then decided to delay our Oysters Rockefeller until New Years Day ad the was more than enough on the platter.

So here we are on this pretty dreary day, me writing this and Himself shucking 2 dozen oysters. No mean feat, if you haven’t had to do it for a living! The man who runs the Selfridges Champagne Bar, Paxton, often enters the Oyster Shucking competition at the Whitstable Oyster Festival and wins! A good shucker, shucks 24 in about 2 minutes! Himself, well a little longer, but improving!

Have never actually eaten in Bibendum but will now do so as we were duly impressed with our seafood platter.

For those of you who want to make your own Cocktail Sauce, then follow this easy peasy cheats recipe.

  • 1 Cup of Ketchup ( yes ketchup)
  • 2 tabs hot horseradish sauce, use more or less to your own taste
  • A good squirt of of lemon juice
  • And if you want a bit more spice, a squirt or two of hot sauce , like Tabasco.

Mix all together until well blended.

It was Crackers!

For many many years, I have made my own Christmas crackers, my Aunt originally supplied the bits that go pop, I made paper hats and filled them with suitable gifts and jokes, in latter years such things as small bottles of perfume, after shave or miniatures of whiskey, gin or the like.

This year was going to be different, after all we were going to be in our Scottish Castle or Hunting Lodge, so decided to splurge. Well almost. This time last year, I bought ( albeit on sale ) crackers from that Iconic, favourite restaurant The Wolseley. So 6 crackers in a box, cost £25, so I was expecting something a little special! But it was not to be, standard paper hat, standard joke and a rather paltry kitchen ‘Thing’. Very disappointed! Experiment not to be repeated, but I still have 21 of them left !

With us was a Bubble, the willowy Brunette, who even on Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day went for an ice cold swim, not sure where, but open water swimming ! Brrr too cold for me even to dip my toe in !

So, we dressed for dinner, had Buck’s Fizz ( too much) played card games and the like, along with opening presents, this takes a while as well as real presents, there are silly ones and they all have to be opened in turn and by guessing contents. ( they come with obscure clues).

This year, as we were going to be elsewhere, I made eco-friendly gift bags, +/- 72 of them! But actually easier wrapping than with paper! They were for 12 people I hasten to add.

And then it was time for dinner. I do get a bit carried away in the kitchen, just too many things I want to try!

We had assorted nibbles for starters, with an Avocado Shot, with prawn and crispy bacon, a mini sausage roll, a Pig in a blanket, baby new potatoes wrapped in Parma Ham and smoked salmon rolls filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese served on Rye bread circles.For our main course, I did Salmon Coulibiac. Which is basically Salmon en croute. I always use Filo pastry for this and fortunately I live near several Middle Eastern Grocery stores, which always sell it ( frozen) as it a main component of many Middle Eastern desserts.

It is so easy to prepare in advance. Simply defrost the pastry, melt lots of butter and be ready to smear each sheet that you use with a generous layer. I used about 8 sheets, for a side of salmon.

Hard boil a few eggs and chop them up, quickly cook some spinach and drain. ( One can also add cooked rice and chopped cooked mushrooms).

To assemble. Lay the Salmon ( no skin ) on the pastry, put on a layer of chopped eggs and a layer of spinach , and wrap the salmon up in a neat parcel .

Cover with cling film and refrigerate until ready to cook. The butter layer will stop the pastry becoming wet.

Remove from refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature and then bake at about 200 C for about 30- 40 minutes. The pastry will be golden brown and very flaky and the salmon will be done.

This I served with Hassleback potatoes, green beans and a Beurre Blanc, made with champagne.

And for dessert? That is for the next instalment.

Dashing through the snow!

Well if we had been in Scotland, we might have had snow, instead we are incarcerated in a very Wet London. At least we are not flooded as are parts of England, not far from here, but our golf course is closed Waterlogged ( and yes in principle we can still play golf).

So I went overboard with the Sausage rolls and the mince pies, himself with the Oysters Rockefeller, what else can one do, when CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED?

My fall back position is to cook. Once upon a time not so many year ago (11 actually) when I got kicked out of India, I returned to the UK alone and for the next three weeks, I cooked.

And so here we are again, not alone, but almost.

Sausage rolls, those very English delights. I find English Sausage meat really very bland, when we lived in Texas I used Jimmy Deans, Breakfast sausage, it was very tasty, especially the “Hot” version. I have often wondered what went into their Sausage and now I know! Sometimes it is better not to know!

I sent Himself on a mission to buy sausage meat, which he duly did, and I proceeded to make my sausage rolls, the first lot, I mixed, the meat with caramelised onions and Dijon mustard. Umm OK but still on the bland side. The second batch I added some English Mustard powder, getting there, but still not the taste that I want. A project for the future, methinks.

Onto Mince pies. I am not a great fan of mince pies. But what are they?

Mince Pies originate from the Middle Ages, when crusaders came from the Middle East with many different spices, which were then mixed with meat and became a savoury pie, served especially around Christmas time. ( Presumably, the spices helped preserve the meat and as they were also expensive, used for a special occasion, like Christmas). It was made into a long shape to represent a manger, even sometimes with a crib on the top.

Over centuries it turned from being a savoury pie to a sweet one, though not quiet clear as to why and the shape also changed. Still today, it is made with dried fruits and beef suet, although there are vegetarian suet equivalent these days.

My very first cookery lesson, when I was about 11, was to make mincemeat. I dreamt about it all night long and then promptly threw up ( is that why I’m not a fan? Could be! And I do not make my own to this day !)

Anyway today, it is so easy to buy Mince Pies ready made, from the very good, to the really nasty ones, with the fillings made up with god alone what ! But why buy when you can make.

I use shortcrust pastry, and again, this can be bought ready made, but if you have a food processor, it is so easy to make. When I was at school, my mate could not make pastry, she always had hot hands and it just didn’t work, but as I said today, with a food processor, even those with hot hands can make pastry.

For a really decadent pastry, along with a food processor you will need

  • 2Cups /260 grams plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup/ 2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 150 grms cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 6 tablespoons cream mixed with an egg yolk.

Simply, put the dry ingredients along with the butter into the food processor, blitz on high for a few moments until you hear the butter stop clonking around. Switch OFF.

Make sure your liquid is ready to go, and keep some extra cream or milk on the side as well.

Switch on you machine and pour in, all at once the cream/ egg mixture, let the machine run, and the mixture, will quickly amalgamate , if it looks dry, stop the machine, press some of the mixture between you fingers to see if it sticks together, if Yes, it is done, if No, switch back on and dribble in some more liquid, BUT not too much, too wet is not good.

Tip your pastry into a polythene bag and knead it just a bit, until it all comes together, then it is ready to use.

Roll out on a floured board and use as required.

Once you have perfected this method of making a rich short pastry, make double the amount as it freezes really well!

For a less rich pastry, use the amounts listed above, minus the sugar and baking powder and substitute the cream for milk.

And in case you were wondering, we shared them with our lovely neighbours on the 6 th floor! The elves delivered them to their front doors!

Where does the time go?

Christmas at Kew Gardens

Here it is, the 13th December, it is over a week since we were released from our second Lockdown, and yes I’ve played some golf but not oodles, I’ve not gone shopping, I’ve not done my blog, so what have I done?

Well, first and foremost was and it happened, just as we were free, our Christmas escape, disappeared, snap, just like that. Firstly the train company ( and we had booked 6 sleeping compartments, over a year ago) cancelled as the drivers would be on a strike! Secondly, BA, ( dear BA which equals B***** Awful) cancelled our return flights, although they did put us on a later one, but if we couldn’t get there, we would have to cancel them! More vouchers ! And thirdly, the wonderful Scottish Castle cancelled us, despite having booked and paid a substantial amount 15 months ago!

Therefore, fast forward and Son in law was like a Knight in shining armour as he found an alternative! Ok, it might not have a moat, nor secret staircase, nor a ghost but it does have its own golf course, Private golf course! ( though it could be under snow ).

Of course, I have been cooking and even had lunch out one day, outside under the heat lamps, but it was still cold!

Today, I’ve made bread and a curry.

In fact it is a mackerel curry. Obviously not for me, but for Himself

He had mackerel for dinner the other week and declared, that maybe, just maybe, he was OFF mackerel, it was the after taste.

So what to do with the remaining mackerel in the freezer? Being of the maxim, Waste Not Want Not school of thinking, I was determined to find something to do with the remaining 4 fillets. Mackerel Curry sprang to mind. I wasn’t sure that Mackerel was a fish used in hotter climates as for me it is a cold water fish, from the Atlantic, North Sea, Norway ,and Iceland, but according to the guru of all things fishy Alan Davidson, a variety of mackerel is found in Mediterranean waters as well as the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Therefore although using cold water mackerel, I went ahead and made himself a Mackerel Curry.

For this is used and it makes enough for 2-3 servings.

  • A good splash of oil ( I always use olive, just because)
  • A handful of dried curry leaves or kaffir lime leaves ( optional, don’t worry if you don’t have them)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds,
  • 2 tsp of either black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1tsp coriander ground
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • A chunk of ginger chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed, these two can be substituted by ginger garlic paste, if you have made some, or bought some !
  • A can of chopped tomatoes
  • Half a can of coconut milk
  • 4 mackerel fillets, make sure the bones are removed, then cut into chunks
  • 1 tbspoon tamarind paste ( nice if you have it, but don’t worry if not)
  • 1/2 bunch chopped coriander
  • Rice or naan to serve.

Heat the oil, add the curry leaves and seeds, cook until they begin to pop, add the ground coriander, turmeric, garlic and ginger, cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and simmer for about 15 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat some oil, dip the mackerel in some flour and sauté .

Add the mackerel to the sauce, and stir in gently. Season, add the tamarind paste if using, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve, with the fresh coriander.

Always fun messing about and trying new things! Many years ago, our au pair of the day, was ( using a very English expression ) GOBSMACKED, that I didn’t have a weekly repeated menu. She told me her Mums repertoire was the following:-

  • Sunday ——roast
  • Monday —–cold meat
  • Tuesday —–Lasagne
  • Wednesday- shepherds pie
  • Thursday—– Toad in the hole
  • Fish and Chips
  • Saturday spaghetti Bol ( spaghetti Bolognase
  • And back to roast !

My mother once complained ” you never know what you are going to get in this house!” But where is the fun in that !!

Mushy Peas and all that!

Blossom, already in London

Have you ever had, and I mean really ever had Mushy Peas?

Mushy peas are definitely part of the British Cuisine, but certainly here in London and the south it is not something that appears on menus, let me correct that, it does appear on menus, BUT what they serve is not mushy peas. They serve peas that have been mushed, which is not the same thing at all.

Real Mushy Peas

Real mushy peas are made from Dried Marrowfat peas which have been soaked overnight and then boiled until soft and mushy, seasoned and served, sometimes with a pie, oftentimes with fish and chips and sometimes as a snack with mint sauce, or even scooped into balls, battered and deep fried ! It is predominantly a north of England food.

Dried Marrowfat Peas

Rumour has it that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, would never has peas served at any meals, as what is the correct way to eat them?

One source says, mash them with your fork, another says, Never do that, another says, spear them with the tines and yet another says, never use your fork as a scoop. Debrett’s says ( and they are after all, All things to do with etiquette) “It may be necessary to use mashed potato to make peas stick to the fork but it is incorrect to turn the fork over and scoop.” So the answer is? I really don’t know, except, never balance them on your knife and try to get them to your mouth !

The British eat nearly 9,000 peas each year and the largest producer and consumer of frozen peas in Europe ( thanks Mr. Birds Eye).

80 grms = 1 of the five a day

Apparently, there’s about 70,000 football pitches worth of pea farmland in the UK and farmers harvest 2billion portions of peas and they are processed from field to frozen in about 150 minutes, and Birds Eye have been doing this for about 70 years !

I have to admit that I have never, cooked marrowfat peas and rarely cook peas, except maybe in fried rice, or risotto. It is not that I don’t like them but more I find them slightly on the boring side and then how to eat them !

Very often here in the south of England, mushed ( but not mushy) pease are served especially with Fish and Chips. I came, across a recipe the other day which piqued my interest.

Pea Guacamole ! Um interesting! As we all know guacamole is made with avocados and the consistency of peas bears no resemblance to avocados. However, always up to try something new, I followed ( more or less) the instructions , cooked the peas, added a dollop of cream and here I deviated as I didn’t have feta cheese, but used some cream cheese. The result was, really very nice, but served as a vegetable and not as guacamole.