Was it worth it ?

Where has this week gone? Honestly I haven’t a clue, but indeed it has gone. Mornings are brighter, evenings are lighter, and flowers and blossom are blooming! Spring is almost here!

I feel that The Sunday Times has been spying on me. Last week there was an article on flavoured butters ( and how I love flavoured butters) and this weeks here was something else, that I thought” Wait a moment” I’ve been doing that for years!

This week has seen a lot of RECYCLING and by that I mean food! It has to be obvious, it is impossible to make just one meat pie or beef stroganoff or kedgeree or Peruvian beef or ?

The extra has always been portioned, frozen, vacuumed packed, labelled and stored away in the recycling freezer drawer! Once upon a time when Himself was working and travelling every week and I traveled almost as much and sometimes more than him, the freezer had magnetic labels with notes written on, saying what was available for dinner.

Flavoured butters, I have been using some of them for years, mainly Garlic butter, Garlic and Parsley butter and Anchovy Butter. Chefs make several butters, which they make into a roll, wrap in cling film, and freeze ( or refrigerate), slice off a bit as needed. Me on the other hand, make my butters and freeze them in Ice Cube trays, pop into a plastic bag and freeze.

I have been buying Trout from Chalk Stream now for the almost a year and is the easiest thing to cook for dinner and SO enhanced with Anchovy Butter. Snails, with Garlic Butter, Garlic Bread, Maple and Cinnamon, with Pancakes, Sriracha Lime and Coriander, Harissa Butter, Horseradish and Pepper, Blue Cheese butter, Chimcichurri used on meats and fish or vegetables and the crème de la crème is Marmite Butter ( now available in Marks and Spencer! The list is endless, I also make my ginger and garlic mix and freeze in the ice cubes, along with my fresh yeast, my ice cube trays get used a lot.

This weekend we tried another Gourmet Take A Way. This time from a company called Dispatch. The service was excellent, delivery on time in all recyclable packaging.

We chose this meal from St. John, a restaurant in central London that was founded in 1993. We have eaten there just the once. The starter was Bone Marrow and is so easy to cook and is delicious, we Love It. The Main course was Braised Duck Legs served with carrots and Aioli and the Pièce de resistance (NOT) was the dessert, and Eccles Cake with a bit of cheese. They do to be honest actually serve the Eccles Cake at their restaurant, but I have to say it looked very sad. And what is more, there was just One Eccles Cake and one sliver of Cheese. Ok, maybe we didn’t need more but to serve it elegantly, put on a pretty plate in the middle of us along with the cheese.

Himself gave the meal a mere 6/10 the Photo shows, three bones on the plate, we had two, three carrots and we had two. The duck was lovely but found that the Aioli superfluous, it actually says in the instructions add a DOLLOP, which we did, but the sauce was nice without it.

The really disappointing thing was that St. John never replied to my question ” Has there been a mistake with just the one Eccles Cake?”

Would we have another meal, Yes, Dispatch offers menus from several and varied restaurants, so we have at least another month to go, so watch this space.

Spring is coming!

Here in London, signs of spring, there are daffodils and snow drops along with hellebores in shades of pink, purple and creamy green. There are catkins, sticky buds and the beginnings of blossom as well as primula and of course MUD. Brighter mornings and later evenings all heralding spring . Yippee is all I can say.

Meanwhile, we have celebrated Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox, with spring rolls, stir fried noodles with vegetables, pancakes and Peking Duck.

I also made a Charlotte! Have not made in many a year, but there were apples and fresh rhubarb crying out to be used. For those of you who do not know what is a Charlotte, well I think it is best described as a fruity Bread and Butter pudding. Instead of bread I used brioche buns out of the freezer, sliced in to four slices . There are to my mind, not hard and fast rules. I used four buns, soft butter to spread on them and equal amounts of apples peeled and stewed in some brown sugar and rhubarb, also gently stewed. ( I used 500 gram of each)

Simply butter the bread slices and line a dish with them, add a layer of the fruit with some of the juice, more bread, more fruit and if she with a layer of bread. Melt about 4 Oz of unsalted butter and pour over the top of the pudding. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or so, until it is golden and risen like a soufflé. Remove and leave to cool a little before eating. I have to admit that I got distracted and forgot the Charlotte until it was well done, but nonetheless still delicious.

Another item that I have not made for years and years are Doughnuts!, The last lot I made were like bricks but I have found a new recipe and it worked exceedingly well. In fact I was worried that I would hear a bang in the middle of the night as I had placed my dough in a container in the refrigerator and thought it might just burst out of the box, but all was well this morning. All I had to do was to let the dough come to room temperature, and then shape it into balls. This is actually easier said than done as the mixture is very soft, so it was really a case of dividing the dough into 12 portions, ball shape as best as possible, place onto a greased tray ready for frying.

Deep fry the balls, depending on size of fryer ( I use a wok) only for a couple of minutes each side in hot oil, drain and dredge with sugar.

If doughnuts are your thing,and feel like giving them a whirl then here is the recipe.

  • 400 grms bread flour
  • 1 dessert spoon of caster sugar
  • 1oz fresh yeast
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Pinch salt
  • 100 grms soft butter
  • 120 mls tepid water.

This is of course do-able by hand but if you have a mixer with a dough hook, great.

Mix the yeast with the sugar , it will make a very creamy paste. Add it to the water and the beaten eggs. Put the flour and salt into a mixer and with the engine running pour in the liquid. Let the machine mix and knead the dough. When smooth, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise to 2x its size. , mix the dough again either by hand or in the machine ( this is called knocking back) and put the dough into a container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring the dough up to room temperature ( I used the microwave on the lowest setting to do this, just a minute at a time) then , divide the dough into equal amounts, try and shape into balls and place on a greased tray and again , leave them to rise, they will double in size, so leave plenty of room between them.

Heat oil in your deep pan, and when hot enough slide the dough balls into the hot oil. They take only a couple of minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon ,place onto kitchen paper to drain and then toss in caster sugar and place a on a wire rack.

They can be eaten more or less straight away, but fillings can be added when cool.

Fillings such as whipped cream ( flavoured with cinnamon sugar, chopped stem ginger, melted cooled chocolate) jam, or cooled custard. The easiest way to insert the fillings is to slice the doughnut and add the filling.

A Takeaway Dinner, well almost.

Himself, once again asked the question ” When and what am I going to cook this week?” Well this week was going to be easy, a take away dinner, well almost but not quite.

I had ordered dinner from BANQUIST. This is a company that rolls out two chefs ( usually) per month, to showcase either their restaurants or their food, as not all of the chefs have restaurants, and in fact none of them are open at the moment anyway and so more and more are offering alternative dining experiences.

This weeks extravaganza came courtesy of Jitin Joshi, who has gone from pastry Chef for Gordon Ramsey, to Executive chef at the Burj Khalifa, to leading teams at Michelin starred Benares and Gymkhana.

The food arrives at a designated time, packed in recyclable ice packs and boxes, complete with all foods needed , written instructions and a video link.

Himself, found that he actually had a lot of work to do and some of it was a challenge, but I kept well out of the way, unless asked. He dutifully watched the video, and chopped and marinated as per instructions.

The only part he didn’t actually have to cook was the date pudding, but all the rest and Wow, boy did he do good ! There were a couple of things that didn’t work quite right, there seemed to be a lacking of timings, to let the novice chef know when to put the lamb in the oven for example. We also didn’t go a bundle on the polenta , personal taste and thought that the baby fennel didn’t do much to enhance the dish, though we do normally like fennel.

He also made the cookies to go with the dessert, along with a yummy toffee sauce. The cookies I also made during our first Lockdown, almost a year ago and will share the recipe once again. They are so yummy and more-ish and easy to make that kids and grandkids can make them.

  • 2oz ( 1/2 Cup) sugar preferably caster
  • 1 large or two medium egg whites
  • About 4 Oz chopped nuts
  • Can add some sesame seeds as well.

Heat the oven to 180 C fan, 200 normal. Put the nuts on a baking tray and put into the oven for them to toast, keep a careful eye, as you don’t want them to burn.

Remove and leave to cool.

Beat the egg whites until really stiff, stir in the sugar and chopped nuts ( and seeds if using). Put some greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and spoon onto it dollops of the cookie mixture, leaving about 2″ between each dollop.

Bake for about 16-18 minutes until golden brown, then remove from oven, and carefully using a spatula lift the cookies onto a cooling tray. I would say, store in a tin, but I’m sure they won’t stay around that long !

Just to show,mahatma some people use my v.of, here is Dave making Beigels! Way to go Dave!

Himself cooks Pheasant.

This week we had two minor outings, well me two and himself three.

One of our trips was to the wonderful Richmond Park, where you will find us at the crack of dawn for our daily walk. Any later, then the car park is full and the bikers ( cyclists) make crossing from the car park quite dangerous. The other outing also for a walk was to Kew Gardens, almost deserted, which gave us chance to wander through the kitchen gardens.

The outing that himself ventured on was an Urban Walk, where he happened upon a large police presence around a tunnel that had been dug by some people protesting the building of a railroad line. The chief protagonist, is someone by the nickname of Swampy a veteran protester and now there with his children. Interesting!

Himself said ” What am I going to cook this week?” For his once a week venture into the kitchen. Pheasant said I. Pheasant ? He repeated, And pray from where do we get a pheasant ? The freezer, said I.

And so it was that for our Sunday dinner we had Pheasant.

Once upon a time we had literally just a round the corner from us a restaurant called L’Autre Pied, this was the sister restaurant to Pied a Terre, on Charlotte Street, which in reality is a short walk away. Pied a Terre has a held a Michelin Star for the last twenty plus years and they are more than willing to share some of their recipes. This is how I happen to have their recipe for Pot Roasted Pheasant.

One has to take liberties with such recipes, after all it is not baking which requires much more adherence to quantities and timings and also now, if I don’t have some of the required ingredients I utilise what I have, and this is my Go To recipe for Pheasant.

For two people you will need:-

  • A pheasant ( they are often sold as a brace, ie in pairs)
  • 1/2 litre of cider, but we used Prosecco
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large or two small Cox apples, these have a nice flavour any apples will suffice except cooking apples
  • The white of 1 leek, we used baby leeks, cut into smallish chunks
  • 2 sticks celery cut into 2 cm bits
  • 2 shallots or one white onion cut into chunks
  • 150 grms lardons
  • 50 mls chicken stock ( a cube or powder will do)
  • 75 grms hard unsalted butter
  • 75 mls cream or crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 160 C fan or 180 C non fan

  1. Season the bird with some salt and pepper
  2. Heat an ovenproof casserole and add half of the butter, fry the the lardons until golden and then add the pheasant. Seal on all sides until golden brown.
  3. Remove the bird and then add the vegetables, followed by the cider or wine and reduce until sticky.
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Put the bird back into the pan, place in the hot oven and cook for about 30 mins.
  6. Remove the bird, cover with foil and leave to rest,
  7. Return the pan to the stove top, bring to the boil again and let the sauce reduce to about half,
  8. Add the remaking butter and cream.
  9. Carve the bird into two, plate and pour over the sauce.
  10. Garnish with parsley, or other herb.

Beigels, if at first you don’t succeed !

Apart from sorting, sorting and more sorting, I am very much Playing in my kitchen. Along with bread and bagels, I want to make Brioche and Crumpets. I have several more ice cream recipes up my sleeve, which means that Himself needs to eat more Ice Cream, just to make room in the freezer. But for now it is BEIGELS.

Currently, I am also on a bagel ( Americanised spelling) kick, finally got them sorted and so much more like the ones which can be bought at the bagel shops on Brick Lane, in the East End. Beigel Bake and Beigel Shop ( non Americanised spelling) ! Both are open 24 hours a day and each make over 2,000 beiges a day. On a Sunday the queues are around the block, and during the current Lockdown, they are still open and even do Delivery. We used to go and buy them but then came the industrialised versions such as The New York Bagel Company. These bagels served a purpose, but compared to the Brick Lane ( and now mine) versions, not worth eating!

I have to admit to using a bread machine to do the kneading and the rising, the former as I have tendinitis in my wrist and the latter as I really do not have anywhere warm to leave my dough to rise. Consequently, if I am not listening for the BEEP of my machine, it can look like something from the Day of the Triffids, almost oozing over the top of the machine !as with most breads things, time and Patience is what is needed. Do not get distracted as otherwise Biegels are not so difficult to make.

To make 8 Beigels you will need

  • 1oz/25 grams fresh yeast ( I much prefer fresh to dry, can be bought on line and it also freezes well)
  • 5 tsp caster sugar
  • 300 mls tepid water
  • 440 grms/ 3 1/2 cups bread ( strong ) flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Mix the water, sugar and yeast together it will make a smooth sweet smelling creamy liquid
  2. Mix the four and salt together and pour in the yeast mixture
  3. Mix well
  4. On a floured counter top, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Brush a large bowl with some oil, tip in the dough and turn it around to get a light covering of oil
  6. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until the dough is double in size.
  7. Tip out and punch it down and then repeat steps 5 and 6.
  8. Tip out the dough again, punch it down and leave it covered with damp cloth for 10 more minutes.
  9. Divide the dough into 8 ( use scales if you want them to all be of equal size)
  10. Take a lump of the dough and roll it around on the countertop, with the palm of your hand to make a nice smooth ball, press it flat and then push your finger through the middle to make the hole, stretch it a bit. Place on a greased baking sheet and agin cover with a damp cloth and leave for another 10 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile heat the oven to 425 F/ 220 C ( 200 Fan Oven)
  12. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop in the beigels one by one.( I do two at a time.) they will float to the surface, leave for a minute and then flip over, total boiling time about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put back on the greased tray. Glaze with beaten egg.
  13. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown, cool on a cooling tray, or eat at once oozing with butter.

Various toppings can be added after boiling, such as salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc.

Have fun, especially now whilst we have the time and by the way, slice and freeze, they do freeze extremely well!

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

A busy week in our Lockdown Tower. Not sure doing what, but busy nonetheless, a walk here, a walk there, cooking here and there, story time for a three year old, reading and story time for a five year old, sorting stuff, here, there and everywhere.

Whilst himself did some cooking ( a spicy Peruvian Stew) and of course another Lockdown series of bedtime stories for the Finchley Three. He takes it very seriously especially when after edition 1 #2, he was told it was Not His Best! So hours are spent each week, creating another new story.

We also had a mini Burns Night, complete with Haggis ( which I have to say tastes better drenched in Whiskey) and a piper zoomed in from Brussels.

I had a surplus of rhubarb. Himself LOVES rhubarb and I guess I went over the top, when I ordered from Watts Farm. So it had to be used. Normally I am never more creative than a rhubarb crumble. I have made a rhubarb sauce to go with fish but the ‘Go to recipe’ is the crumble.

Therefore some out of the box thinking was required and I came up with two alternatives. Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream and Rhubarb Clafoutis.

I first came across Clafoutis when we lived in Texas and had a Belgian Au Pair. She came complete with a cookery book created by her parents and Clafoutis has been in my repertoire ever since.

It is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally made with cherries, or other red summer fruits, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. It is then dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm, sometimes with cream. There are , of course, many variations of a recipe but here is one. It makes 6-8 servings

  • 4 eggs
  • 100 grms sugar
  • 250 mls cream
  • 50 grms plain flour
  • 200 grms plain full fat cream cheese
  • 500 grms cooked rhubarb

Heat the oven to 200C fan or 220 C non fan oven.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, cream cheese and flour.

Put the cooked rhubarb ( drain off most of the juice) into the bottom of a dish, I used a soufflé dish because of the depth. Pour on the batter and bake for +/- 35 minutes. It will rise up like a soufflé and be golden brown.

It will fall upon cooling, but serve warm with cream or crème fraiche.

Left overs? Seriously, well in that case, it can be eaten cold, or a quick zap in the microwave just to make it warm.

Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream, is DELICIOUS, especially if you are a rhubarb crumble fan ( I am not) but both the look and taste of it, is almost like custard and cream.

Make your basic crumble mix

  • 100 grms plain four
  • 3 Oz cold butter cut into chunks
  • 3oz sugar

I put the flour into the food processor along with the sugar and with the motor running drop in the butter and process just for a few seconds until the bumping of the butter stops.

Spread the crumble mix on a baking tray and bake at 200/220 ( fan/non fan) for about 10-15 minutes until golden and cooked.

I usually add, chopped nuts and / or ground almonds to my crumble mix as well.

Put to one side to cool

Drain the cooked rhubarb and again in the food processor , process into a purée.

For the basic ice cream mix

  • 500 mls double cream
  • 50 mls full fat plain yoghurt
  • 100 grms caster sugar
  • 3 eggs

Put the eggs into a food processor along with the sugar, whisk for a minute, then pour in the yoghurt and the cream. Process for a couple of minutes. Pour into a jug, and stir in the rhubarb.

Freeze either just in a container, stirring a couple of times,adding the crumble, when it starts to thicken. Likewise, if using an ice cream machine, only add the crumble mix, when you transfer the ice cream mix to the freezer.

Is this Week Three?

This week has seen me doing some online reading with young Sam, which is a joy for me ( even if not for him). Food wise, we had Peking Duck, well almost, I had a duck in the freezer, taking up too much room, so for time for it to go, so on Sunday it was duck roasted with Honey and ginger and then on Monday, the rest of the duck went into Chinese pancakes.

Chinese pancakes are actually very easy to make, and today without having to go grocery shopping all you need is flour and water! Couldn’t be easier. Of course you do need some vegetables, like spring onions,celery, carrots and maybe something like spinach, Chinese cabbage or even baby gem lettuce.

To make 12 pancakes you will need:-

  • 11/2 Cups ( 6 oz, 175 grms) plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 Cup (160 mls) boiling water
  • 1 tsp oil ( I used olive oil)

Put the flour and salt into a heatproof bowl and pour in the boiling water, mix with chops or a fork or spatula until the dough forms a ball. When it is cool enough to handle, knead the dough for several minutes until smooth, adding some flour if it is too sticky. Put into a plastic bag until ready to use.

Roll out the sought into a sausage and cut into 12 pieces. Knead each onto a ball and flatten out with the palm of your hand, and roll out into a disc, until about 6 inches in diameter, you might need to flour your surface to stop them sticking.

Heat a frying pan, or pancake pan over medium heat possibly with a smudging of oil and put in a pancake for about 40 seconds, flip over, there should be just a few flecks of brown, but basically white. Keep warm and damp in between a damp tea towel.

Serve with julienned cucumber, green onions, celery, carrots and lettuce. Serve also with hoisin sauce ( shop bought) and of course the cooked pulled duck or pork ( I guess you could also do the same with chicken) which is warm ( I just warmed ours up in the microwave).

Have fun and enjoy!

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 !