To Devon for my brother-in-law's week-long 60th birthday party: walks on the beach, a recital of the Goldberg Variations by the harpsichordist David Wright, lots of talk, a little bridge, knitting - and no cooking.
I missed the party on the first night (I was at Lord's), but sent Lucius with a pudding, Jennifer Paterson's Adult Chocolate Cake ... and, unusually, several people enjoyed it so much they took the trouble to find out who had made it and remember to say something a day or two later. I'm not taking the credit, that belongs to JP; it's a very easy pud for a special occasion, a good one to have up your sleeve (so to speak).
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Pride comes before a fall ... and (so?), of course, Oxford failed to win a single match, although they were all closely fought. Half way through the last match, the lights went out. And that was the end of that. Ditto the dinner, as the lights were still off two-and-a-half hours later.
The match was duly abandoned, and we all repaired to the Long Room bar for drinks (Pol Roger, as they are the sponsors). The room was lit with a few emergency lights, and a long line of silver candelabra, which flickered flatteringly for the mothers (and a sprinkling of grandmothers) - the young women tennis players would all have looked fabulous in any light. But there was still no electricity by the 8.30 deadline - the emergency lights were due to fail at 8.45. Alfred and I left Lord's as the players were all milling about trying to make a dinner plan. We drove back to Henley, got takeaway from Pizza Express, and ate it while watching Match of the Day. (Hubris for Lucius, too, now I come to think of it, as he swore Aston Villa would beat Chelsea 1-0. Ha!) Not what we'd planned, but nice.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Fingers crossed. It's the conclusion of the real tennis varsity match at Lord's today, and it's the first time for over a decade that Oxford has any chance of beating Cambridge - the long-serving Cambridge postgrad tennis players all graduated last year: one of them (the one playing my boy) was playing for Cambridge for the 14th time.
Horatio is captain of Oxford this year (see post title), and started the match with a doubles win yesterday. Sadly the other doubles match went to Cambridge, but that means today's four singles matches will be keenly contested.
My top photo shows Horatio warming up; the one below shows my chaps watching the second match, and gives you an idea of what the court looks like. I'll try to take better photos today.
We went to last year's match too - and I managed to post something about the food
Monday, February 16, 2009
Half term, so off to Windsor and Eton to buy sports kit.
We had lunch at Carluccio's in the old station at Windsor - busy busy busy. This tin of five different sorts of bread inspired us to make something a little more exciting than our ordinary daily loaf. There was grissini, oil-laden and salt-encrusted foccacia, a dark-ish bread with fennel seeds, a white slice full of soft raisins, and a crackerbread which seemed more Scandinavian than Italian, but which was very good. We thought we'd make some crumpets - so English you'd never find them in Carluccio's, and as simple as making pancakes.
On the way home, we stopped at the Italian deli in Maidenhead and bought some interesting pasta shapes, the end of a Parma ham, and a salami. Btw, if you want to visit, the shop is not in Denmark Street (that's the wholesale part of the business), it's two streets away in Vicarage Road).
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
It's funny, one day there's five inches of snow and only the spears of a few snowdrops, the next day most of the snow has gone and the wood is strewn with snowdrops. This tea glass is full of the false promise of spring: those catkins have been hanging in the hedge since December, the witch hazel is almost over, and the snowdrops - well, they're a winter flower.
But there's more and more light, so I'm spring cleaning. It's amazing how the cobwebs show up at this time of year, although I leave as many as possible, because I'd rather have spiders than flies in my house, and because it's a losing battle here - the spiders come in when the nights start to get cold in the autumn, and none of them seems inclined to go back into the garden as the weather gets warmer. Luckily, I'm not afraid of them, although I don't much like it when they drop onto my pillow. Which they do (no rude remarks about cobwebs in our bedroom, please Eleanor!).
There's a culinary side to the spring cleaning: we're eating up the larder and the deep freeze. We've been eating fish cakes, using up various tins and packets, and using my usual recipe. When I used up all the Matzo meal, I forgot to buy more, but I found that fresh breadcrumbs worked just as well.
Mostly I use this method for making crab cakes, but it works well with other fish, and saves a lot of palaver with potatoes - although if there's leftover mash in the fridge, I'll happily use that. I've used this basic recipe with both fresh crab & tinned crab, as well as with a mixture of the two, also with salmon or tuna. I've replaced the Matzo with fresh breadcrumbs. I don't bother weighing anything any more - I find that a mixture made with one egg and one lemon will support enough fish for two or three people, and that if there isn't enough fish, then a little more Matzo or a few more crumbs will eke it out, especially if there are plenty of herbs in the mix. I'm not sure I've ever used the full specification of fish.
2 tsp Dijon mustard
the juice of one lemon
450g cooked fish - although I rarely use anything like this much
50g Matzo meal
chopped herbs (optional)
Mix the egg with two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and the lemon juice (zest, too, if you like). Add the salmon and Matzo meal and, using a fork, stir together until it's all amalgamated. When you're ready to cook, you can chop in some herbs - dill would be good with salmon, or parsley, chives, perhaps coriander. Shape into patties - these days, I use a ring, because these are a little flaky, but you really don't have to. If you want to freeze them, now's the moment, interleaved with greaseproof paper. I'd thaw them all day in the fridge before cooking them, but I dare say you could cook them from frozen (as if you'd bought the cardboard sort in Tesco). They need about five minutes on each side.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Here's an interesting idea: which three or four gardeners would you invite to dinner? They don't have to be alive, just to make the fantasy more difficult to decide on.
First I'd go for my great-grandfather, the Rev Henry Ewbank, who spent forty or so years pushing the boundaries of horticulture from his gardens in Ryde, Isle of Wight. He was a scientist by inclination, he was rich enough to be able to buy interesting plants and seeds from the plant hunters who explored the world in the latter half of the 19th century, he was the first to overwinter a Mojave yucca in Britain. He also had a tulip named after him, which you can buy from the tulip museum in Holland.
I'd also invite Christopher Lloyd, because you could say many of the same things about him that I've just written about Henry Ewbank. And because I like his books a lot. Also his garden.
And Roger Phillips, whose photographic categorising books are so helpful, lovely and learned. Bulbs, Trees, Roses, and Wild Flowers are my favourites. And because the book he wrote with Leslie Land, The 3,000 Mile Garden, is my favourite comfort reading.
Oh, and of course Joseph Paxton. This is what he wrote in his diary the first day he went to work at Chatsworth:
I left London by the Comet Coach for Chesterfield, and arrived at Chatworth at half past four o'clock in the morning of the ninth of May 1826. As no person was to be seen at that early hour, I got over the greenhouse gate by the old covered way, explored the pleasure grounds, and looked round the outside of the house. I then went down to the kitchen gardens, scaled the outside wall and saw the whole place, set the men to work there at six o'clock; then returned to Chatsworth and got Thomas Weldon to play me the water works, and afterwards went to breakfast with poor dear Mrs Gregory and her niece. The latter fell in love with me, and I with her, and thus completed my first morning's work at Chatsworth before nine o'clock.
Thanks to Veg Plotting for organising this.
PS, now furious with myself for forgetting to invite Thomas Jefferson
Thursday, February 05, 2009
I say Suzie's because she made these delicious pancakes on New Year's Eve - a steady stream of them came out of the kitchen, loaded with salmon and sour cream, spritzed with lemon juice. But actually, they're from Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite ... writing the note I've had in my jacket pocket ever since was my first culinary act of 2009.
for 10-12 blini pan sized, or lots of tiny ones
85g buckwheat flour
85g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
200ml semi-skimmed milk
1 1/2 tsp melted butter OR olive oil
2 large egg whites
a small knob of butter for cooking
Mix together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre, then add the milk and fat. Mix until you have a smooth batter. Leave to stand for "a few minutes".
When you're ready to cook, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, and fold them into the batter.
Fry over a medium heat for 60-90 seconds, until they are brown underneath, then flip and cook for a further minute.
Gordon Ramsay suggests serving with smoked salmon, sour cream, capers and salad leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and black pepper.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Snow here for the third day in a row. Lovely. Especially now it's sunny. Light has such a cheering quality: Monday was Candlemas, we're more than half way to the equinox, every day there's more light, and suddenly I have more energy.
This was the dinner Lettice cooked last night when her friend Lucy came to stay. Tomorrow Lettice is off to South Africa, the next day Lucy's off to Central America.
Duck and orange
4 duck breasts (with skin)
1/2 mug fresh orange juice (2-3 oranges)
1/4 mug soy sauce
2 glugs of oil
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
zest of an orange (do this BEFORE you juice the orange)
Score the duck skin both ways so that you have a diamond pattern. Whisk everything together in a large bowl, then add the duck. Leave as long as possible - up to 24 hrs, although ours was fine after 2-3 hours.
Shake the duck dry, then fry vigorously skin side down for five minutes (watch carefully at this point, because the skin burns very easily). Drain off the fat (do NOT pour this down the sink, because it will block your drains). Cook skin side down for another five minutes or so, but at a lower heat. Drain again, then turn the meat and turn the heat right down. They need 15-20 minutes in total (it's hard to say exactly, it will depend on size, heat, and whether they were at room temperature when you began). Rest on a hot plate while you make the sauce.
Drain any fat from the pan. Put the pan back on the heat and de-glaze with some wine, a little stock, water if you don't have anything else. Add the marinade, bring to the boil, then keep it bubbling for a good five minutes.
Slice the meat across the grain. Strain the sauce into a jug (this is easy only if you have a small conical sieve; if you don't, and most people don't, then try not to mind about any stray bits at the bottom, they're probably delicious anyway).
PS this is based on Keith Abel's recipe in Cooking Outside the Box
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
It's funny, stuffing used to be made to eke out the meat. These days it's mainly used as part of the Christmas feast. The best shouldn't just be relegated to December, and this one is good enough to eat all through the winter. We're having it tonight alongside the duck in orange sauce Lettice is cooking. Easy, too.
Blitz three smallish onions and two peeled and cored eating apples. Put them in a large saucepan with some oil and fry gently. Meanwhile, blitz 400g bacon (I used smoked bits the butcher sells at a discount). Add this to the pan and continue frying.
While this is going on, blitz a gingerbread loaf (say a McVitie's 400g Jamaica loaf). Use the same food processor bowl each time, and you don't need to wipe it out, because the whole mixture will be cooked in the oven later.
Take the pan off the heat after 10-15 minutes in total, and grate on the zest of an orange. Cool a little, then add the crumbs.
When you're ready to cook the stuffing, stir in an egg, then press the mixture into a loaf pan. Cover, and bake for 3/4 hour at 200C. Take off the lid/foil for the last 10 minutes.
You can use this to stuff a bird; I always cook it separately, because that's what we did when I was a child. Fear of bacteria, I seem to remember. No picture again: I'm back to using my blog to remind myself of what I've cooked, so that I can cook it again.
Left Over for Tomorrow, by Marika Hanbury Tenison.
I bought my copy in a sale at a wholefood shop in Bristol when we were first married, and, two decades later, it's well worn. This is a really good reference book for anyone wanting to make the contents of their fridge go further. Only this week I consulted it to see what to do with a tiny bit of hard cheese. Answer: grate and store in a screwtop jar in the fridge, then add to soup, pastry or vinaigrette.
The Pauper's Cookbook, by Jocasta Innes.
I bought this soon after I got my first job, and was living in London on not much more than fresh air. I haven't used this so much in recent years, although leafing through it, I can see why I loved it so much - loads of interesting things to do with cheaper cuts of meat and the sorts of fish my grandmother used to buy for her cat.
Poor Cook, by Susan Campbell & Caroline Conran
I graduated to this when I realised how much I enjoyed cooking. It's a quirky '70s book, and the recipes have stood the test of time better than, say, Diet for a Small Planet (I can no longer find anything I want to eat there). I still vividly remember the oxtail stew I cooked for the first time, decades ago now, and recently bought a replacement copy of this in order to recreate it. And, yes, it's just as good now as it was then.
Budget Gourmet, by Geraldene Holt
I bought this in the mid 80s, and it's the most adventurous of these five. Geraldene Holt is a wonderful and inexplicably underrated cookery writer. The green herb tart, the koulibiaka, the mackerel cooked in tea. My copy is literally falling to pieces. (Here's a gratuitous link to her butterless pastry.)
English Food, by Jane Grigson
This is not specifically about frugal food, but traditional English cookery encompasses the idea of thrift, so there's lots of frugality here: leek pie, brawn, pease pudding, herrings in oatmeal, gooseberry sauce for mackerel - to find a few at random. Grigson's recipes always work, and she always has something interesting to say about the origins of the dish she's describing.
It goes more or less without saying that the most frugal way to buy these books is second hand.
I'm tidying up, so I'm using my blog for its original purpose, which is as a 21st century manuscript cookery book. This is a reminder for a quick pasta. I've written it down twice while watching re-runs of Jamie Oliver cooking in a very up-market garden shed.
Mix 1 egg and 100g OO flour per person. Draw together in a ball. On the pasta machine's widest setting, roll and fold four or five times till it's silky. Then push it through until it's as thin as you'd like. Fold loosely, cut to tagliatelli. This takes 45-60 seconds to cook in boiling water.
I'd be grateful for any tips which would improve on this. I never find it quite as easy as Jamie makes out ;)
This idea for cooking beetroot came with the Riverford veg box last week. Delicious.
Preheat the oven to 160C
Slice raw beetroot into a bowl. Add a little chopped garlic and rosemary (or thyme, or summer savoury when the moment comes). Salt if you like. Pour on a little cream - not too much, or it will bubble up and boil over, making a lurid mess in your oven (or on the potatoes baking beneath, in my case). Mix well so that all the beetroot is coated.
Arrange in a gratin dish, cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes. You can uncover it for the last 10 minutes if you remember.
Very rich. A little less sugar next time. And half the quantity, unless there are 20 for dinner.
225g 85% plain chocolate
225g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
Grease a 22cm cake tin. Heat the oven to 180C.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Add the cubed butter towards the end. Beat in the sugar.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs until they are frothy and foamy, then fold into the chocolate mixture until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour into the cake tin and cook in a bain marie (a couple of centimetres deep, cold water is fine) for one hour.
Let the cake cool in the tin, then put into the fridge. Do not eat warm.
JP says: It's a killer. She's not wrong.