Sunday, 12 October 2008


Flapjacks are full of oats and oats are full of great things. What else are oats good for? Porridge. Konjee. Haggis. All these can provide you with oats and oats are brilliant for keeping you full, and counteracting cholesterol.

Oh, oatcakes, you can make oatcakes. Personally I'd rather eat kitchen towels, a more convenient way to remove moisture from my mouth. I suppose you could use oats to make textured pictures as part of a collage, if you run out of sand and pasta, or indeed together with sand and pasta - although I suspect you would need gallons of glue.

You can use oats as a coating too, instead of breadcrumbs.

Aren't they used as a facial scrub sometimes (with water)?

I've no idea why they get horses/ponies etc frisky, but apparently they do. I've tried it and it didn't work for me. But don't let that stop you.

Anyway, for reasons that would take too long to explain, I've got an awful lot of oats in the cupboard. And it isn't because I've been trying to pep up my love life, or that my pony has died. Now, I hate porridge but my family doesn't, sadly the oats I have in plenty are the jumbo variety, and I'm told they don't make good porridge or rather when used in porridge the slime factor isn't uniform enough or something. I'm not eating it, can't say. So what to do? Flapjacks is the only answer.

I use a roasting tin, lined with baking parchment. It measures 8x12" (20x30cm). So, adjust the quantities according to the size of your tin. Or use a tin the same size as mine.

What is baking parchment? It's greaseproof paper's baby brother, probably the result of space technology, like teflon. It is non-stick. If you haven't got any, grease the tin very well, or use the old stalwart, greaseproof paper, which you should also grease. What's the point of that? It makes the tin easier to clean, and helps you get the flapjacks out of the tin more easily as well.

Flapjack recipe

200g butter or marg
100g soft brown sugar
200g golden syrup
500g jumbo oats

Set your oven to Gas Mark 5

Line your baking tin with baking parchment.

  • Gently melt the butter/marg in a saucepan, until it has melted. Add the sugar and golden syrup, keeping the heat low, stirring all the time.
  • If you let it bubble it may start to crystallise, which you don't want.
  • Once everything in the pan is melted and mixed up nicely stir in the oats, until the liquid coats the oats evenly. Stir the oat mixture up well, so that the oats soak up the liquid.
  • put the sticky oat mixture into the tin, spreading it evenly to the edges and tamping it down.
  • Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the surface of the mixture is slightly golden.
  • Take out of the over and allow to cool.
  • When flapjacks are tepid, cut into squares, using a sharp knife. If you cut from the outside edge into the middle, it'll be a cleaner cut.

Don't eat too much at once, becuase you might get tummy ache. Or, live dangerously, and eat it all at once. Or as much as you like. It's your life, your stomach. They're pretty good flapjacks.

If you fancy it you can add nuts and/or dried fruit. Up to 150g in weight should do it.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

salad dressing

There is only one salad dressing. Well, there may be other dressings, but this is THE ONE to remember. It's the Long Family salad dressing. It's more than Elizabeth David could manage, to write this down. Her likely source book, by the marvellous Jean-Noel Escudier, doesn't list it.

What's it good for then? Well it's good for everything. It's great with any green salad. Other favourites of mine are sliced tomatoes, any lightly cooked veg, and pain bagnat.

So, everyone should have a pestle and mortar. Wooden. Hardwood is best. However, research tells me that they don't. So I'm giving two methods to make the dressing. Oh, and Jamie Oliver sells a strange thing with a ball in it - you could use that too, just make sure you mix the first batch of the ingredients before adding the olive oil. It does make a difference.

1 clove garlic (peeled)
salt (preferably maldon) hearty pinch
pepper several good grindings
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 to 4 tbsp best olive oil

with pestle and mortar
pound the garlic, pepper and salt together to make a fine puree, don't stint, really mash it up
add the vinegar
mix to a uniform paste
add olive oil and mix well

without pestle and mortar
finely chop the garlic (as small as you can, crushing it with the side of a knife first will release the delicious juices,and help get the skin off)

mix chopped garlic, pepper and salt together
add the vinegar
mix well
add olive oil and stir

use to dress your salad, shortly before eating it

If you don't like the smell of garlic on your fingers there are some gizmos to help reduce contact with the garlic, but don't buy ready peeled garlic - the fresher the better. Still garlic is good for you, whether cooked or raw, but in the battle with cholesterol raw is best. 

you can make a larger batch and keep it in the fridge for around a week - remember, the longer it keeps, the stronger the garlic flavour, so you might want to use slightly less garlic

you can use this as a marinade, but then halve the quantity of oil

My friend Alex makes the dressing with balsamic, which is nice but sweeter. Kitty has taken to this, and waits until everyone has eaten their fill, then adds balsamic to my dressing and eats straight from the bowl, which is slightly embarassing.

I like to dress green salad just before serving it. If you put the dressing on and let the leaves sit they don't look the same.

Use dressing as a suntan oil, as an old flatmate used to, well it was lemon and olive oil, she explained that you can't have too many freckles. I have no idea how her skin has fared because we've lost touch.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

An easy supper: Cabbage and bacon

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great meal. In this case that’s as long as you have a good head of cabbage. If you’re veggie, leave out the bacon, add more onion and some red pepper, for colour.

As a kid I was forced to try dishes, including those that I might have rejected in previous samplings. I never came around to tripe or sauerkraut, but hunger, sibling rivalry and the prospect of supper for breakfast meant I managed to choke most things down. This is one I got to love and is so good it also conquered daughter number two without the extreme measures I was subject to. In fact my wasted sensitivity earned me the reproach ‘why didn’t you tell me about this?’

So, let’s debate which type of cabbage to use. This recipe can be made with pretty much any cabbage, but I like Savoy cabbage best. It’s beautiful, with intricate lace-like veining, brain-like bumpiness and it’s leaves range from rich green to sunny yellow at the heart. It tastes great and, by the way it’s also the best cabbage to use if you want to make stuffed cabbage.

So, other than a good head of cabbage, to serve four hungry people you’ll need an onion, a packet of bacon, a knob of butter, a healthy pinch of salt (adjust the pinch if you’re using salted bacon) and some vigorous grindings of black pepper.

Cabbage and bacon Serves 4

What you need

* 1 cabbage
* 1 onion
* 1 packet bacon
* Knob of butter
* Pepper
* Salt

How you do it

1. Remove the core and any damaged outer leaves of the cabbage
2. Slice up the cabbage and leave to rinse in a bowl of cold water
3. Chop up the bacon
4. Put pan onto low heat, add chopped bacon and knob of butter
5. Peel the onion and chop up roughly, then add chopped onion to cook with the bacon, stirring occasionally
6. After about five minutes, or once the onion becomes soft, add the wet cabbage. Don’t shake off the water, that’s all the water needed to cook the cabbage
7. Add pinch of salt and black pepper
8. Cover with pan lid and cook for around 15 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft, and most of the water has cooked off. The cabbage should still be a good colour green.

Eat straight away, on its own, or top it with an egg or some cheese to make a substantial meal

Word of warning: keep the heat low, or you may end up with burnt cabbage

Any leftovers are great mixed with potato and fried up to make bubble and squeak, or as a tasty topping for shepherd’s pie, veggie or meat.