Toasted sandwiches

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Over the last few days I have had it in my mind to buy a Breville toasted sandwich maker.  It reminds me of being a teenager, going home with my pals, walking into the kitchen, and reaching for the Breville.  They were always delicious at any time of day or night, and every filling tasted superb.

And the reason why it’s popped into my head after so many years?  My friend bought her sixteen year old son one for his birthday, and posted a picture of it across the social media network.  Since then, it has niggled me, ‘why did we throw away our Breville?’

So today, I have relived my teenage years.  And I have to say, there are a few things I had forgotten.

Firstly, the white sliced loaves are the wrong shape.  They are rectangular and the Breville insists on square.  This means that unless you cut the bread to size, there is always a couple of crusts which pop out of the end.  Either because of this, or in spite of it, the lid of the Breville needs encouragement to say the least, to ensure its lid closes properly.  As a consequence of this disproportionate bread sizing the two pieces of bread never quite fit together. Although in the archives of my mentally filed history, I have a niggling suspicion there is a technique you can use to make sure the two slices remain together as you close the lid – any suggestions gratefully received.

Secondly, the Breville is not very accommodating of a full filling.  In all honesty, it really doesn’t like that much filling at all and will expel any excess whilst cooking. Especially things like baked bean juice which it is uncomfortable with to say the least.  Any filling that has not been rejected by the toaster is tongue singe-ingly boiling.

Thirdly, when the toasted sandwich has cooked, there is a slight burning aroma which doesn’t leave the kitchen for a few hours.

And finally, the Breville is an absolute monster to clean.

However, all that said, I am as happy as a pig in clover that we bought one because despite all the forgotten foibles, there is absolutely nothing like a toasted sandwich.

Eggy Bread

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The wonderful thing about having a little time at home with the boys is being able to kick back and relax about everything.  We don’t eat breakfast until at least two cups of tea into the morning, we don’t get dressed until we’re ready, we don’t clean our teeth until we get dressed and most importantly, we don’t rush anything.

Consequently, we have conversations about many random things, which I absolutely love.  Mainly because it reminds me that children are not on the same thinking plain as adults.  We concern ourselves with the practicalities of the when, the where and the with what.  We contemplate the structure of the day to ensure that people are fed and watered at regular intervals and philosophically engage our minds over the morality of issues du jour.  In other words, we engage with the world around us in a very considered and almost routine way.  It’s a habit.

Whereas children don’t, or at least shouldn’t, have that kind of mental responsibility of rigour, and consequently their minds are free to wander from subject to subject, almost at random, picking and choosing what will entertain them today.  Right now. With not a care in the world for the practicalities.  And rightly so.

As a result of this breadth of space, today we discussed whether it would be better to go to the Pink Banana as Luke Skywalker and a Storm Trouper or not.  I don’t mind either way.

Meanwhile, back on the culinary track, I decided to indulge in one of our favourite breakfast meals.  Eggy Bread.  Now some people call this French Toast, or Gypsy Toast.  I believe this is because the French discovered it was a good way to use up stale, or not so fresh bread, but thought I’d better check, and found this:

French toast was not invented in France*.  Pause for reflection.

Apparently, it was first mentioned in 4th Century Rome by a bloke called Apicius. Roman version of Michel Roux most likely.

Anyway, having looked into it further, the reasoning and recipe are still the same. The recipe.  Mix eggs and milk together into a bowl, add salt and pepper and then put in slices of bread which have been cut up into quarters.  Leave to soak.  I usually do one egg per slice of bread, and although today we used wholemeal bread, white sliced holds it’s shape better.  Both are delicious.

Once the bread is almost falling apart, fry a knob of butter in a pan and add the quarters.  Fry until browned on both sides.  You will find they puff up a little, which I take great satisfaction in.

Now then, we always have them with Tommy K or HP sauce, but they are just as lovely with honey drizzled over them, or fried in cinnamon and sugar. Either way, sweet or sour, they are a wonderful start to, what I hope will be, a very chilled out day.

*www.todayifoundout.com

Making Lists

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I am forever making lists.

Shopping lists, work lists, ‘to do’ lists, mental lists, top ten lists.  You get the idea.

I also have a methodology for all these lists.  I have a book for work related lists which unfortunately do not form any cohesive chronology, so I spend quite a bit of time looking for a specific list, but still, they’re there.  I use old envelopes for shopping lists, convincing myself that I am recycling to good effect.  Top ten lists are mainly to do with ‘my favourite…’ which can incorporate anything I have been thinking about for that day, week or even month.   These tend to pop up in my work book, often alongside a doodle.  And of course my mental lists are things that I think to myself ‘I must remember to write that down’ which more often than not happen when I’m either just about to fall asleep, or I’m driving in the car and therefore are usually forgotten as soon as I step onto the pavement.

I presume that most people compose some sort of list in their head on a regular basis, and I do see a great many people wandering around the supermarket holding tightly onto a scrap of paper although I take my hat off to anyone who can whizz round said shopping emporium without buying something extra.

But the thing about lists which always dumbfounds me the most, something I can never quite come to terms with, is why they don’t make you feel more organised.  At the end of the day, when you’re sat with that cup of tea, reflecting on what has just happened over the last few hours, do you ever say to yourself, ‘I’m so pleased I made that list’?  Admittedly it does happen occasionally, but really not so often as to convince yourself that you’re on top of things.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of days at home this week and am already making a list, just mentally at the moment, of things I want to achieve.  I have a chair that needs finishing, a cupboard that needs painting, a garden that needs looking at and a house that could do with a really good clean.  And that’s just the start of it.

Ah well, I’ll put it all on the list and see what happens.

Quick Passata

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Some days just fly away with you, and before you know it, the sun has set and you’re caught off guard wondering who stole the time.  Today was one of those days, but I did manage to make a passata sauce for a meal I’m cooking tomorrow, which although probably not done in the correct way, always tastes delicious.

And this is how I do it.

Chop red onions and add to a pan of oil with a whole heap of ripe chopped tomatoes, and perhaps a tin of tomatoes as well if you feel like it.  Add tomato puree, salt, pepper, sugar and a splash of red wine vinegar and let it simmer for a while.

Stir occasionally and ‘quality control’ for balance of flavours.  Little tip here, best to add too little seasoning to start with and build up the flavour.  It’s a nightmare trying to counter balance too much of something.

When all the ingredients have had time in the pan to get to know each other, turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Blend.

Now I know that is should be strained so that none of the seeds or skins of the tomatoes are left, but I don’t mind them hanging about in the mix.  So for me, that’s it.

I am using the passata as a base for pizzas tomorrow, and I’ll let you into a secret.  I don’t always use pizza bread bases either.

Culinary rebel.  That’s me.

Strawberry and Almond crumble

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Well I was going to write about my infamous chocolate slices today, and rant about the use of the word tiffin, but I have found myself delightfully distracted by stumbling across Nigella’s recipe of the day on twitter.

As you may or may not be aware, I do have a huge amount of respect for Nigella. Not because of her television programmes, her sultry looks to camera, or her seemingly glamorous lifestyle.  In fact none of the typical love her or loathe her arguments cross my mind for more than a second.  The reason why I think Nigella is fabulous, is that in spite of all the heartache she has suffered over the years, her passion for food remains.  And her honest passion is just so obvious, as any lover will testify.

Therefore, it is to this end that I follow Nigella on twitter.  Now for me twitter, facebook and the other social media forums, are something that I dip in and out of. But with twitter I am especially drawn to the notion that you can ‘pop in’ for literally seconds, and get a snapshot of what those you follow are thinking.  Which gives me endless amusement and knowledge.

So today, when I dropped in for a few seconds to see what was happening on twitter, Nigella had posted strawberry and almond crumble, to which my mind said, ‘ah ha, we have some strawberries that we didn’t eat yesterday, I’ll use them’.  Of course, when I went to check the weight of the strawberries, (you need 500g, hulled), to see if I needed to buy more, the box I had were festering in the vegetable rack, oozing a red liquid which even to me, looked unpalatable.

And so it was, that I had to trundle off to the supermarket and buy more strawberries, and some almonds, and actually almost all the ingredients, which was not my intention but once I have the idea in my head, tell you what, there’s not much that stops me…  Barring lack of money, time, or just forgetting what I went for.

Having gathered all the ingredients together, I made the crumble which I have to say is extremely easy, and popped it in the oven.  Now, taking into consideration that my oven doesn’t always understand what it has been designed to do, I checked on the crumble regularly to make sure it didn’t come out half burnt, and did exactly as instructed i.e. left it out for ten minutes before serving.

The verdict?  We all agreed it was sweet, indulgent and absolutely delicious.

I’ll definitely be slotting this recipe into my repertoire.  Thank-you, once again, Nigella.

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/strawberry-and-almond-crumble

Coffee

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It’s a funny old thing, coffee.  When you’re young, it tastes like old men’s socks, although the exception to this is coffee and walnut cake, and then one day, right out of the blue, you have a cup of coffee and it tastes absolutely divine.

Why this is I have no idea, although I did once read that, as children we have a whole heap of taste buds that gradually disappear with age.  So it could be that, or perhaps it’s a right of passage affair.  Either way, coffee has taken on an almost evangelical quality in terms of it’s status in our society.

For me, this awareness was raised as a direct result of the television programme, ‘Sex and the City’.  When those girls bought coffee, they bought it like they meant business.  Every time.  It became a symbol of independent city living and as a result, we all bought into the notion that coffee was more than a bit player in the film of our lives.  It was the perfect accessory to the phrase ‘Places to go, people to meet, appointments to keep’.

And as a consequence, after watching an episode, who didn’t secretly swish down the street with a take away coffee in hand and a Carrie Bradshaw monologue drifting around in their head?

But my love of fresh coffee was superseded by Carrie and her chums.  My love of coffee began way back when I first travelled around Italy and discovered the Bialetti. An ingenious cooking gadget that makes coffee like no other I have ever experienced.   So it is to this beautiful piece of 1930’s design that today, I raise my coffee cup and say ‘Thank-you’ Alfonso Bialetti.   Beautiful design, wonderful coffee.

Afternoon Tea

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I’ve always loved the idea of afternoon tea.  It conjures up an image of well dressed ladies in hats and gloves gossiping whilst sipping perfectly brewed tea, poured from a porcelain teapot into porcelain cups which sit perfectly on their matching saucer, accompanied by a three tiered cake stand of sandwiches with their crusts cut off, and cakes, iced to perfection.

The Great Gatsby.

I’m also a huge fan of the meals in between meals idea.  Morning coffee, elevenses, afternoon tea, supper.  In all honesty though, if I were a devotee of preparing every delegated nomenclature of food times, there would be little time left for the million and one other things to do in a day.

However, there is nothing like treating yourself to one of these ‘added extras’ every now and again.  And so it was today, that the wee boy and I took a trip to the park to partake of afternoon tea in the glorious sunshine.

As with all al fresco foods eaten at another location in the sunshine, there is a balance between the food being edible, and it being melted.  A small window of opportunity.  So with this in mind, I put all the elements into the fridge until we were ready to depart, then filled our flask with boiling water, packed mugs, teabags, milk, scones, jam, fresh raspberries, butter and clotted cream into the cool bag and strode off to the park.

It was a wonderful afternoon and felt ever so slightly decadent.  Of course on our return the butter had succumbed to the heat and sprawled over every possible surface it came into contact with.  But butter is an accommodating soul, and our temperamental fridge will make sure it reconstitutes itself in time for it’s next outing.

Perfect.