Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘cooking food’ Category

Tomato_jeWhenever I am in Spain, I always take advantage of the local produce.  There’s no point going there and stewing cabbage or boiling turnips (not that you see much of those on the Costa del Sol), when the soft Mediterranean, often very local, (fruit) vegetables are in great abundance.

The aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes all have a fabulous depth of flavour – even the knobbly, small cucumbers actually have taste, unlike the long, smooth, hot-house grown phalluses available here. Therefore, invariably, the first dish made is ratatouille.

s-l640One problem with my ratatouille in Spain is that I have less access to chopped tinned tomatoes or passata. Over there they have more tomato frito, which, although a similar consistency to passata, is quite sweet and can overpower the finished flavour.

I decided therefore, to make my own tomato sauce and to use that for all of the dishes that require such a thing.

28492528636_d730e0ea97_zThe Spanish grow some fabulously tasty tomatoes. 

Even when served under-ripe, with a little salt, oil, parsley and crushed garlic, they make a meal; accompanied by some local ‘Spanish’ bread.

For the tomato sauce, I simply chopped up a kilo of tomatoes and brought them to the boil along with a small, chopped onion, 4 peeled cloves garlic and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato puree. Then, I let that lot simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with tiny bits of water now and again. I then seasoned it, blitzed it all with a hand blender and used as required (sauce for pasta, added flavour for paella, to loosen up ratatouille, slackened off as soup etc.).

I sometimes add (fresh) basil or oregano towards the end of cooking, for added flavour.

I made the same last week, with Aldi tomatoes and had to add a jar of Lloyd Grossman sauce to give it any flavour at all.

Read Full Post »

I was sixty-five this month.

To celebrate a lifetime of learning and working, I invited six of my closest chums to join Sharon and me for dinner at The Watermill in Slaithwaite. John R, I met during my first week at secondary school (I met his wife Sandy, when they married). John T, I met when playing rugby and after my family had moved from Sheepridge to Deighton. I met Carol later in life when we all met up again a few years later. Tony and I met in mid-life, when we attended teacher training college. We followed that up by working together in a catering business/franchise, which is when I met Gill, his wife.  We have all done all sorts of things, together and apart.  We had a great meal, followed by dessert at home (Sharon had made cake and Carol had made us tub of her bombe 🙂 ).

img_7450Prior to this, we held open house on the Saturday before my birthday.  Almost forty friends from various parts of my life (and life line) came along to this and we all had a great time chatting and reminiscing.

I had decided to provide a selection of Spanish dishes, tapas size, with beer and cava brought back from Spain in October. Sharon decorated the house in a pseudo Spanish style with a big flag, an inflatable beer island, an inflatable cactus and lots of streamers.

I prepared:

  • EMPANADILLAs, made from potatoes, swede, cheese and onion (baked not fried).
  • I sliced some Spanish Sheep (oveja) cheese. We’d probably call it MANCHEGO.
  • I cooked TORTILLA. Each filled with six eggs, potato and onion. 12 portions each.
  • PATATAS BRAVAS – roast potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.
  • ALBONDIGAS – mixed pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce.
  • I also made my version of the Spanish SALAD RUSSE with lots of potato and vegetables (and a little tuna in some).
  • and .. Sharon made a wonderful BEETROOT HUMOUS

I had also made my own focaccia bread to go with all this. As it didn’t turn out quite right, I toasted small pieces of this in the oven – which made it perfect. People pretty much helped themselves while I sliced the main act, SERRANO HAM, off the bone as required.  Thank you for this Aldi!

Emma and family had not been able to make the open house as it was Amy’s birthday, but they came around the following week for a meal. I invited my mum and dad to this too as I wouldn’t see them for the best part of two months afterwards.

So, I’ve had a great birthday month. I’m in Spain now and will receive my birthday gift from Sharon on Tuesday when she takes me on a surprise ‘something’ in Malaga. I’m looking forward to that.

Read Full Post »

a butchered leg of lambToday I cooked Roast Leg of Lamb for Sunday lunch. Even Sharon liked it. I’d looked at Tescos for a full leg but only saw freezer burned imports at £16+. I finally settled for a local butcher jobbie at £20+, but it was fresh and as I’ve alluded, delicious.

The butcher  asked if I’d like the knuckle cutting/breaking and I declined, much to his surprise. The problem with a broken knuckle is that you have nothing to hold on to when it comes to carving time. (it’s a cheffy thing). Also, I’m much happier making sure that the membrane/sinew closest to the bone is removed, as this allows the meat to shrink naturally as it cooks and leaves the bone nice and clean after cooking. The picture shows this process (cutting the membrane) under way.

It was a big leg and I decided to slow cook it. With that in mind I prepared a trivet of aitch bone and root vegetables and covered these with water. I cut small holes in the leg and push tiny sprigs of rosemary into these (trimming them level with the flesh to stop them burning), then spread Dijon mustard all over before sprinkling the lot with Fleur de Sel de Guérande which we’d bought in France.

I then cooked the leg on a high/moderate (200°C) heat for about half an hour before checking the liquid and covering it all with foil. I then lowered the heat to 150°C for another four hours (checking now and again). Served with steamed haricots vert and Dauphinoise, it was tender, tasty and tremendous. (We also had, Feta Salad, poached Salmon, Apple Crumble [with bombe] and French cheeses – great meal).

Read Full Post »

Whilst we’re on the theme of Saturday Walks, let me say that dues to holidays and the need to deposit the step daughter in East Anglia, there has not been a whole lot of walking done. I strolled around bits of France (when it wasn’t raining) on holiday but not enough to warrant the word ‘walk’. We did do a short walk however, last Sunday morning whilst staying over at Sharon’s sister Joanne’s place near Brandon in Norfolk. And what a rewarding walk it was!

Joanne had said that there were loads of plums ready for picking on our route and that we should take a carrier bag with us. We took two, and by the time we’d finished each was half full of ripe and juicy plums. I’m not sure what the variety was – the nearest I can find is Jubileum, which might be too young a variety for where we found them. However, if you search for the 1905 variety Jubilees – you will see that they are very similar.

Whatever they were, they are now plum jam!

Joanne gave us some blackberries she’d frozen and we stole a lot of her own apples, ready for picking in her garden; so the plan was to make apple and blackberry jam, and plum jam. Sharon achieved this feat yesterday – massively underestimating the amount of work required in removing the stones from the plums 🙂 The apple and blackberry has set as hard as we’ve become used to jam being these days and the plum jam is ok, but just a little softer.

You can see from the picture above, that they have already been put to good use. Rock on free(ish) food!

We’d bought those neat little jam jars on the right of the bottom picture in France – for next to nothing. We wish now that we’d bought more. Also for sale there, which we didn’t think we’d use (but …) were little paraffin wax pellets, designed to be melted and poured onto the finished jars to create a seal. You live and learn.

Read Full Post »

And then of course there was the crumble for dessert!

Earlier this month, we’d been lucky enough to have been allowed the use of our friend’s Billy and Angela’s house in France for our holiday. In the back garden there (in Roussines) they have a magnificent apple tree, which was dripping with tasty red apples. I can’t be sure of the variety, but ‘Discovery’ is the nearest I can find. Their skin is quite tough, which is something I remember from my younger days – people used to peel the skin away in those days – but the flesh is pure white with just a hint of pink tinge. The flavour is tart with a nice depth of sweetness.

So we brought a bagful home.

As we’ve been back for almost a week, I thought it was time I started doing something with them. I peeled half the bag and cut them up into chunks and placed them in a large pan with just a little sugar and about an eggcup full of water. I then brought the small amount of water to the boil, covered the pan with a lid, lowered the heat and allowed them to cook for about 5-10 minutes. This allowed the apples to steam and when I lifted the lid the pan’s content looked like cotton wool was cooking away inside. Perfect.

A good stir with a wooden spoon and they were ready to make pies and crumbles or to be used as an accompaniment for roast pork. I decided to freeze mine for later use. The taste of the cooked apples is quite subtle, almost (Chardonnay) wine-like, rich and well worth the (very little) effort.

Then I made the apple crumble.

For this, I peeled the apples and sliced them into a small baking dish. These were raw, uncooked. I sprinkled them with a little sugar and set them aside for a couple of moments (not too long or they would go brown), whilst I made the crumble. I’ve always followed my old friend Cameron’s rules for crumble [3:2:1]

  • 3 parts plain flour
  • 2 parts sugar
  • 1 part butter/margarine

I blitz these together in the whizzer and then add a good handful of oats – which are then mixed in by hand. I added the crumble to the top of my apples, tapping the dish as I did so to settle the mix right down. Don’t put the crumble on too thickly.

Then I cooked it in the oven at about 180 degrees for about 30 minutes (but you know your own oven – just make sure it’s cooked).

Eaten with vanilla ice cream. Delightful.

Now, I need to concoct something for Billy and Angela by way of thanks. Apple Mousse?

Read Full Post »