Monday, 28 February 2011

sausage and mash

Sausage and mash is a simple pleasure. It's not a complicated meal to prepare, and so invites a development of family ritual around it. In this house the mash verges on the mousseline, with lots of milk and butter. The sausages must be high meat content, and we're happy to have merguez or other spicy sausage. I like some Dijon mustard, preferably served with a small wooden mustard spoon. Others indulge themselves with pickles and chutneys, and sweet chilli sauce has graced the table alongside the sausage at times. But the main thing is the mash.

Vegetable accompaniments with family approval include green salad with family dressing, carrot with onion (also called caramel carrots) and cabbage. Savoy cabbage, spring greens or finely shredded white cabbage, braised with a little finely sliced onion, some butter, a pinch of salt and a few vigorous grindings of black pepper. The only liquid needed is what the cabbage brings with it from having been washed.

Onion gravy also has its place - especially for those evenings when hunger strikes hard.

For the mash I favour a white potato, a little over cooked and drained. Milk is then brought nearly to the boil in the potato pan, the drained potatoes are added, and the mashing begins. I start with a push down masher and finish with a fork. Butter is included, a couple of pinches of salt, several grindings of black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg - I grate it into the pan. My dad used enough to cover the tip of a sharp knife, but I use more. The potatoes are mashed to a smooth consistency, then turned into a heatproof bowl and popped under the grill until the top gets toasty.

Serve with sizzling sausages of choice.

apple cake pictures

I made these vast cakes
with a crunchy sugar topping
I've just found the pictures of my apple cakes. They kept very well - which was only possible because they were really immense. I gave away over half of each.

I need to redo the recipe to make sure it's as delicious as I remember.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

choc chop cookies for 6 nations rugby

I maintain that rugby is better than football. With my knees you might assume that I have played the game extensively, but that is not so. I've only latterly admitted to my admiration for the game, and, due to my getting much too overheated watching it even on tv, I've limited my viewing to the 6 nations, with occasional lapses. It's very exhausting, shouting at the telly. I can't imagine how wrung out I'd be if I actually went to watch a match. I'm not very good in crowds and don't manage well with disappointment. Still, there is something compelling about watching men gather in violent, writhing heaps on a muddy field. My family put up with my repeated urging for my boys to get up the other end, pick up the ball and run, darling, run, interspersed with yelps of joy and pain.

In anticipation of the England-France game I booked in with my delightful neighbour and prepared for the emotional exhaustion by cooking a batch of choc chip cookies, with a bit more substance. The original recipe is chewy and quite flat. Kitty told me the chocolate pieces were too large - only once they had cooled, she didn't mind when they were melty, and she hardly had the chance to find that out, since she was scoffing them fresh off the sheets as they came out of the oven. So I added two handfuls of rolled oats, and I blitzed the broken up chocolate a couple of times in the little processor. The result was a slightly bulkier cookie, which needed slightly longer in the oven. Otherwise the recipe was the same choc chip cookies.

In fact I was so busy baking I missed the start of the match. Still, I'm not sure I could have managed more of the match, sugar boost or not. Thank goodness England won.

Birthday gold

I made myself my birthday lemon cake yesterday, and it's smelling tantalisingly lemony on the table, next to a large bunch of spring flowers from devoted husband. The birthday theme is sunshine yellow, in all senses, and the golden orb is brightening the sky as I write.

I made a couple of changes to the cake, using almonds and gluten free flour, and adding a topping of finely sliced lemon,  ground almonds and sugar. This makes a lovely slightly sticky topping, so I'll need to use a very sharp knife.

Slices will be eaten later today.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

do we need a dishwasher?

Our dishwasher has died. Curse you, machine manufacturers. The Miele we inherited from Steve's ex mother-in-law (we are so progressive - and acquisitive) staggered on until it was over 25 years old. Steve managed to keep this latest going with bits of blu-tack and some sudden inertial shock tactics (kicking), aided and abetted by my de-calc attacks using vinegar and proprietary brands, but after six months of this ministration it now refuses to budge. We'd splashed out on a mid-range model by Bosch, it is just five years old.

We have started washing up by hand (something had to give). It hasn't been as bad as I expected. My memories of washing up are entangled with some of the worst rows I have ever had. Washing up with my siblings could stimulate disputes so loud that they were heard from the end of the road. Main bones of contention were disapproval of style. The order of washing up and the presentation to dryer uppers. Of course, to the washer upper the stacking of things to be washed is also important. So many things to row about. Then there's the matter of delivery of the washed items - should you dry several plates at once? Should the washed items be left to dry, and if so, who will put them away? Then of course there is the matter of whether the items are properly washed or not. Granny wisdom reminds us to wash the underside of the plate as well as the top. The order of washing is:

serving dishes
cooking pots, utensils and boards

Do you rinse or not, before washing and after washing?

You might imagine that using a dishwasher will eliminate all these subjects with such potential for dispute. Oh, no it doesn't. Do you rinse everything before loading the dishwasher? If you don't then the jets might get blocked. Who unloads the dishwasher? Is unloading enough, or does everything need to be put away? Is the dishwasher a storage area? You certainly need more crockery if you're using one - and if it gets completely unloaded, before reloading, then you need more storage area outside the dishwasher.

So handwashing looks like an attractive option, as long as violent dispute can be avoided. 

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Succulent Lamb braised and browned

Some people don’t like dark meat, and in particular lamb. This puzzles me, and I find myself reverting to the fascist in the kitchen approach, with thoughts of telling people to sit down and eat and just be grateful. Whilst this isn’t often an effective or popular approach, still, sometimes the lack of appreciation for good food and the skills used in preparing it brings out the dictator in me.

It’s worth trying out this recipe, without worrying about rejection from the no-dark-meat lobby, since it’s on record for changing people’s minds. The meat is braised and then browned in the oven, and the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. The spicy paste is infused into the meat, giving a luscious red colour, from the paprika. The last spell in the oven creates a wonderful crust.

I like to use a leg of lamb, chopped in two. Shoulder is also good. The main thing is to use meat on the bone, for more flavour, and to have it in pieces that you can manage easily in the pan.
I like to prepare the meat the day before, or at least for an hour before cooking starts.


4 lb leg of lamb, cut into two or shoulder of lamb cut into four parts
2 cloves garlic
pinch powdered saffron
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1½ tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cups grated onion (two small onions)
salt to taste
5 sprigs green coriander tied in bunch with thread

Mash the peeled garlic cloves with the spices and butter, to make a paste.
Trim surface fat off the joint.
Rub the butter mixture over the meat and set aside for at least an hour, or overnight in the fridge.
Put the grated onion together with two cups of water into a heavy-based pan large enough to fit the meat, and add the meat.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for 1 hour, basting and turning the meat occasionally.
Add the coriander and cook for another hour or until meat is tender and falling away from the bone – add water if needed.
Lift the meat out, put in oven dish and cover.
Let cooking liquid cool and skim the fat off – this can be used to cook and flavour fried potatoes, if you like.
Reduce the fat free cooking liquid to a thick gravy.
Set the oven to heat to hot, 450F/230C/gas mark 8.
Bake the lamb for 30 mins, basting with thickened gravy, to give a brown crust.

Serve with couscous and salad, or steamed potatoes and salad.

Monday, 14 February 2011

labneh - strained yoghurt

Labneh is a kind of cream cheese made from yoghurt. The yoghurt is strained through muslin for a day or so, and then seasoned and eaten. I use low fat yoghurt.

Put a strainer over a bowl and line with a muslin cloth.
Empty a pot of plain low fat yoghurt into the muslin and twist it closed.
Leave yoghurt to drip for at least 12 hours.

How to use it:

Roll into small balls, about the size of a small walnut, then roll in herbs or paprika with a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Cover in good quality virgin olive oil.

Chop or grind some garlic and stir into strained yoghurt with a pinch of salt.- eat with hot pitta bread.

Chop some ready to eat apricots up very small,  add some finely choped fresh mint and a pinch of salt - eat with hot pitta bread.

Drizzle some virgin olive oil over the strained yoghurt and  sprinkle with paprika - eat with hot pitta.

salade composee with labneh

At lunchtime today my helpful husband came to the bedside to ask if ailing spouse wanted some lunch. I grunted a yes, requesting something fresh and he magick'd up a salade composee, par excellence. Topped with a gently boiled egg, cut in two, with the yolks just slightly soft and glowing golden yellow in the milky white. The salad was flavoured by the lubne balls I made a while ago, and left marinading in some lovely virgin olive oil. The balls were rolled in dried basil with a pinch of pepper and salt. Other ingredients included cold roast chicken, from last night, walnuts, charred green pepper, grated carrot, and crisp lettuce. It was accompanied by butered toast, and it was lovely.

Salade composee is not made enough in this house, well, not the salad that I want to eat. The salade composee I'm talking about doesn't include big slices of onion, tinned sweetcorn or beetroot. That's what I think of as German salad. The salade composee I'm talking about has various ingredients and piled up, ready to be mixed up. Steve thinks we don't eat it enough because Kit only likes green salad. Whatever the reason, he has revived my interest, because mixed salads give a lift, with their variety of colour, flavour and texture.

A salad like this is a complete meal. In fact I couldn't finish mine.

If you don't want to start preparing this meal two weeks ahead, substitute the marinaded lubneh balls for other soft cheese, and drizzle the salad with good quality olive oil, a few grindings of pepper, pinch of salt and a sprinkle of herbs. You could also use this salad dressing.



1/4 green pepper
4 marinaded herbed labneh balls
1 egg
4 lettuce leaves
4 or 5 walnut halves
1 small carrot
some cooked chicken


Char the skin of the pepper over the gas flame and scrape it off, chop it into small pieces and set aside.
Chop the walnuts.
Put an egg into cold water in a pan, bring it to the boil and simmer for 6 minutes, then drain the hot water and cover the egg in cold water and set aside.
Peel the carrot and grate.
Wash and dry the lettuce and tear into small pieces.

On a plate or bowl arrange the lettuce, scattering the walnuts, peppers and cheese over it.
Peel the egg and cut in half, and arrange the halves on top.


Other salades composees we like are Salade de Gesiers, Salade Nicoise

Sunday, 13 February 2011

reviving simple soup

I like soup and when I'm a bit limp, especially when cold stricken, I like it to have a lot of ginger in it. I chuck things together with gay abandon and it usually turns out pretty well. Since I'm bedridden, with lungs giving a pale imitation of the usually gusty bellows (more like a flooded and elderly church organ), I forced the kindly husband to magic some up for me. Straightforward info: chop one of each veg, cook with water and add the vital sauce. Steve has proved the value of gunpowder sauce, creating a delightful, warming and simple soup. This week's gunpowder included a black pepper kick, with a ginger bite backing it up, it was just the soup to revive a wheezing, sick woman.

Veg soup with gunpowder sauce


1 potato
1 carrot
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 slice ginger
3 tbsp gunpowder sauce


Peel and slice all veg, and put into pan with two mugfuls of water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until all the veg is cooked.
Add the gunpowder sauce and cook for 1 minute


I like a garnish of a finely chopped spring onion and a couple of pinches of gomasio.

Gunpowder sauce

Ken Lo says this sauce is the difference between Western and Chinese cooking. It’s a different combination of flavours, rather than flavours that aren’t Western. Soy sauce is quintessentially oriental, of course. I use tamari, since I cater to the gluten intolerant.


½ pint soy sauce
5 tbsp sherry
6 tbsp good stock or 1 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp sugar
3 slices fresh ginger
½ onion

Simmer everything together in a pan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Store in the fridge for about a week.

I sometimes like to add a handful of peppercorns and a star anise and other times some coriander seeds.

If I don’t have fresh ginger I use lemon zest, not powdered ginger, which can give a slightly soapy flavour.

Sesame salt or Gomasio

Gomasio adds in a major way to many dishes. It really is seasoning, rather than flavouring. I use it on vegetables, hot and cold, on rice or noodles and in soups. It adds depth and warmth, and is very comforting.
We make it and keep it in a jar.

Recipe for Sesame Salt
3 tbsp sesame seeds
3 hearty pinches of Maldon salt

Heat a heavy-based frying pan or wok.
Put in the sesame seeds and keep stirring until they go golden brown. They’ll pop around a bit – if you’ve got a splatter guard you can use it to keep them in the pan. I don’t bother.
Blend the toasted seeds with the salt. You could use a mini blender, but the best way is grinding them with a pestle.

We have a bowl with grooves in it that I use, but you can use a mortar or a bowl.

You end up with a golden powder with some sesame husks visible in it.
Sprinkle over your food, to your own taste

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

bacon and apple

Kitty opted out of supper (chicken noodle stir fry) and made herself her latest snack of choice, bacon and apple. This passes muster on two fronts: she makes it herself and it includes a piece of fruit.


The apple must be crisp, with a tart tang. De preference, Braeburn, green not red. Cut into four and the core cut out, then cut into slices.

The bacon is cooked thoroughly, on the edge of crispy.

Eat the bacon with the apple.

Steve reckons it's good because it's something salty and dense matched with something fresh and moist. Kitty just says it's good. But then she eats pasta with soy sauce and parmesan.

Monday, 7 February 2011

marmalade too

I have been making marmalade again. The smell is divine. I'd like it as perfume. The orangey odour wafts around the house, and really can't be matched. When the sugar is added the hint of caramel creates something irresistible. Eating last year's version 2 (recipe here), I think I must be a god, or at least an alchemist.

I am trying a 2011 second batch, with just the light soft brown sugar, and a little demerera. Jars are in the oven. Soon I'll take it to a rolling boil and get the jam funnel out. I'll post the recipe in a bit. As for 2011 batch 1, I have 27 jars on the shelf, only two have labels, and friends are offering to pay for it. We'll see.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

brioche as well

I had another go at brioche - it turned out pretty well. It was lovely as toast, but I will try it again with 1/2 and 1/2 strong and plain flour, because it was very bready. And astonishingly easy to make.

2.5 tbsp dried yeast
500gr plain flour
60gr sugar
1 tsp salt
3 eggs plus an egg yolk
3 tbsp milk
130g butter (softened)
1 tbsp orange flower water

  • Heat milk (don’t boil) set aside to cool, then stir in yeast.
  • Put flour, salt and sugar into a bowl, make a well.
  • Beat 3 eggs and pour milk mixture and eggs into well and stir, until all is combined.
  • Knead to a smooth dough.
  • Cut butter into cubes and add, about a third at a time, making sure it’s well incorporated before adding the next batch, kneading well each time, ending up with a smooth elastic dough.
  • Put into oiled large bowl, cover with damp cloth and leave to rise for 1.5h.
  • Knock back the risen dough, until smooth, make into a ball, put back into large oiled bowl, cover with cling flim or damp cloth and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Next morning

  • Take the dough from the fridge and leave for 20m.
  • Cut into 8 pieces, roughly shape into balls and put into lined bread tins.
  • Leave to rise, until doubled in size – about 1.5h – then cut crosses in the top with scissors, brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar if you like.

 Cook for 20-25m at 180/350/gas mark 4

healing avocado

I did take a photo for Steve's healing avocado recipe. Voila!