Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Trying to Catch up

To get to work, I have to travel from Brixham to Gravesend three or four times a month. It’s a 230 mile journey each way, and over the two years that I’ve been doing it – as well as all the times I’ve travelled up and down for non work reasons I’ve come to know the A303 and the M3/M25 quite well. I’ve seen them in all weathers, driving rain, thick fog and dazzling sunlight. I've travelled them in darkness and light, and in that twilight when objects are blurred in shape and somehow seem slightly unreal. And three truths stand out over all that; There’s always another lorry to overtake, faced with a choice the other car will ALWAYS do the stupidest thing and that the safest place to be is tucked in behind a lorry doing 53 mph and just able to see his mirrors.

There are places on the journey that have acquired a special significance, half way, the place I stop for coffee or a leg stretch, 100 miles to go (coming home) and the sign that says “Welcome to Devon” (also coming home). Funnily enough most of these “milestones” are on the way home.

I think it’s a bit strange too, that in other countries the scenery can remain the same for hundreds of miles, yet on my relatively short journey, I go through the wooded hills of Devon, the Blackdown Hills of Somerset, Salisbury Plain and the North Downs, all very distinctive areas and all in such a short distance. And every time nature puts on a show of different colour, from the frosted starkness of a January Morning to the dappled sunlight of a summers evening or the Gold and Red of Autumn. It has become a joy to drive to work, despite the distance, because every time it’s different, and there is always something to catch the eye.

And so to food!

Yvonne and I were feeling a little bored last Sunday, and after the Black Cat Viennese Whirl (or should I say Wheel) experience I had brought a piping bag to make an attempt at my own. So the logical thing to do was to have a go.

And here they are.
Just out of the Oven 
With Buttercream

And Jam

A flock of Whirls

Not only that, I also made a crumble, using another bottle of scrumped apples and some Blackberry Jam.

I have a new toy! I wanted an apple press but was amazed at the cost, then I found one second hand - £4! Now all I need are the apples.

We have a good crop of Dandelions at the moment so I am starting to save them in the freezer, when I have enough it will be wine time.

I made a corned beef hash with a twist, partly to use up a few odds and ends, and partly to see what it would taste like, first frying chopped onions, pepper and garlic,

Meanwhile I cut potato into cubes and deep fried for about 5 minutes to soften.

When the veg were soft I added chopped Chorizo and Corned Beef,

then the potato and just kept stirring until the potato started to brown, adding halved Cherry Tomatoes at the end.


Next time: the garden explodes into life; I make wine and try to make vinegar, and much more.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

First, an apology. I've got a bit behind here, and there has been quite a bit happening in all sorts of ways. There is a backlog of stuff to write about and I'm getting on with it, hopefully by the middle of next week I will be up to date. Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures to keep you amused.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Bits and Pieces

The last few days have been spent catching up, doing bits and pieces and this and that. It all started on Saturday, with a discussion about the food we would like over the next few days. After a bit of horse trading, we hit on Yvonne’s Spag-Bol with a pudding by me for Saturday, Pork Chops on Sunday, out for a meal Monday (Money off Vouchers) and back to work Tuesday.

I had a few jobs to do as well, Potatoes to plant out and start sorting out the loft (When we moved everything that was not immediately required was thrown up the loft and forgotten. If we haven’t missed it by now it can go to the next boot fair)

This Years Potato Crop

So the pudding, inspired by Cheesecake, but without the cheese.

Blitz a packet of value Chocolate Digestive Biscuits,

then add cubes of butter and pulse until you get a rough paste.

Use this to line a spring form dish, pressing well into the edges.

Whilst that is chilling in the fridge make a fruit compote, I used Blackberries from the freezer, with Brown Sugar and a little cornflour to help the set.

Let this cool then spread over the biscuit base. Roughly chop 100g dark chocolate and sprinkle over. Put it back in the fridge.

Whisk together a tin of condensed milk and some natural yogurt to make a custard.

I brought Hortense out of the fridge to warm up, and made a couple of loaves, the taste and quality is getting better all the time, but they are still not rising too well.

Saturday Night - Excuse the state of the Tins!
Sunday Morning, Ready for the Oven

Yvonne Made the Bolognaise? on Saturday night.

 And we had the cheese-less cake after

It was rather good
So for lunch on Sunday, I got some pork loin chops out of the freezer and oiled them in a dish.

Next some of my breadcrumbs (I bake all my ends of bread and turn them into breadcrumbs – another frugal habit) mixed in some dried onions, herbs and garlic.

I coated the chops liberally with this mixture and covered with foil.

 As these cook, the breadcrumbs will soften and take up the juices and flavour. At least that’s the plan.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Custard Pie.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I hate waste, and will do most things to use up any leftover food, (Just ask my girls) but this doesn’t mean that you have to eat anything that is not nutritious or good quality. In the same way that you must respect the environment and leave a light footprint on it, I think that it shows a lack of respect to waste any of the earth’s bounty. And if that means fried potato peel (Loaded Skins anyone?) or making croutons from stale bread,

well that’s a small price to pay.

I make most of my food from scratch, but I don’t do pastry, I can never get it right so I always use pre-made. It’s my one guilty food secret and I hope it doesn’t get me into too much trouble. And that includes buying pre-made flan cases, the basis of today’s dessert.

Basically, it’s just a pastry case with a thin layer of chocolate spread,

filled with warm home made custard. This is made thicker than usual so that it will solidify in the fridge. Chocolate chunks are then sprinkled over the top, to melt in.

The whole thing is then chilled until set.

When it comes to Roast lunch, I like to wait until I can buy a large joint at reduced price, mainly because the bigger joints always seem to cook better, but also because I can slice or chop and freeze the meat for several meals in one go. So for example from one 1.5kg Beef joint I can get about 12 portions of meat, either sliced for instant roasts, or chopped for casserole or stew. Also sliced and cut into strips for stir fry or fajitas.

Talking about beef, I took a small piece of roasted beef out of the freezer on return from work yesterday. Incidentally, here is one of the ships I piloted whilst at work, into Tilbury lock as it happens.

Back to the beef, here’s the defrosted piece:

This I sliced and put into a casserole dish.

I added some left over gravy,

This will then go into the oven at 180 for about 45 minutes and emerge moist and tasty. All that is required then is to prepare root veg (Potato, Parsnip and Swede) to roast and some boiled carrots to accompany. The result is an easy meal prepared in about 15 minutes.

Talking of Roast lunch, my daughter Georgina, who is veggie, sent me some pictures of her Sunday lunch, looks like she’s got the hang of it.

Yvonne has made a beetroot and chocolate cake, which went down extremely well with clotted cream.

I found a few bread pictures that I don’t think I posted before, my sourdough is still living, and resting in the fridge for a while, I feed it once a week whilst it’s hibernating, which seems to keep her happy, maybe after my next day working I will warm her up and make a loaf.


Selection of Breads

White Sandwich Loaf

It’s time to start gardening again, as I said before I planted early potatoes and carrots just before the bad frosts, but now they are on the move. I have the rest of my potato crop on the windowsill sprouting and they will go in next weekend.

There is a lot of work to be done, not least rebuilding the tree house! And I have a car full of cuttings and green waste to take to the tip. And the compost bin needs turning. And…..etc etc etc!

Now it is light enough to take the dogs out at 6am nature will soon start moving, and once she gets going it’s hard to keep up.