Purple Sprouting Brocolli

Purple Sprouting Brocolli

This is one of the most beautiful named vegetables I know.  It has elegance and aplomb usually reserved for fruit.  And the colour combination is, in my opinion, sublime.   It’s also pretty tasty, which is a relief as we have loads of it, thanks to our recent venture into ‘the veg box’.

Now I am sure some of you will completely dismiss the idea, whilst others, lucky enough to live in or near the countryside will wonder what all the fuss is about.  Both valid stances, neither of which I have any intention of discussing or dismissing.  But for us, surrounded by the dirt and grime of city life, a little glimmer of well looked after food going into our bodies feels like a pretty good counterbalance to this.

Hence the veg box.

We could, of course, grow our own.  But we have to be honest with ourselves, and right now, this just wouldn’t happen.  Instead, it would go on the ever increasing list of things we’ve started but not as yet, managed to complete.  Accompanying that, would be another notch on the guiltometre.

We could source a local-ish grower and drive there every week.  But that is petrol, time, and expense that we just don’t have.  So instead, we have opted for the veg box which is delivered, as part of a job lot, to the wee boys kindergarten, weekly. Incorporated into this new venture, we have challenged ourselves to cooking with everything that comes our way, without opting out and waiting until it has gone past it’s best, before putting it into the compost bin.

Within our box this week we had, what I thought was, celeriac.

I have never cooked celeriac.  I have only seen respectable people discuss it, some rather lovely chefs cook with it, and some often pompous people, eat it.   So, my experience of celeriac has been gleaned through a screen.  Imagine my surprise therefore, when today, having decided that one of the knobbly things in our box was celeriac, I got out said vegetable to peel and prepare for cooking and mashing, only to find it was beetroot!

And momentarily, my heart sank, as I realised another day would go by without me experiencing celeriac in person.  Put into perspective though, I could always nip out and buy some, so let’s swiftly move on.

I have also, without too much distress, managed to defrost the fridge freezer today. Probably not a moment too soon, as the ice from the back was beginning to greet me when I opened the door and envelop various items on it’s way – I kid you not.

So I am now feeling pretty self righteously smug, and only slightly concerned, that the wee boy thinks we have bought a new fridge.

Breakfast Burger Bagel

Breakfast Burger #2

If you look for half a second with your eyes slightly squinted and the wind blowing in the right direction, do you not think this bears more than a resemblance to the Rolling Stones lips image which, until recently, became ‘a thing’ on almost every piece of cloth produced?  Just me then…

I have had the most indulgent morning hanging out with Nigel Slater.  Not him personally you understand, more specifically, his cookery books, ‘The Kitchen Diaries II’ and ‘eat’.  Both beautifully written, albeit in different styles, both leave me with a slight sense of being at the bottom of a mountain, looking up.

However, as the wee one and I were flicking through, I came upon a breakfast recipe in ‘eat’ and thought two things.  Firstly, I have a version of everything in that is required, and secondly, it looks quite easy.

You will need sausages, bacon, tomatoes, cheese and bagels.

Nigel suggests 3 herb sausages, but we didn’t have those in as my boys are not keen.  We do have gorgeous ‘I know where that pig grew up’ sausages though, which I reckon is just as good.  Similarly with the bacon. Nigel suggests 2 slices of smoked streaky bacon, I used non smoked back bacon from the same known stye.

Skin the sausages and chop the bacon in a bowl.   I added some black pepper at this point, because I really like that little kick it gives.  You may not.  Squidge together. Make into patties.

Put a little oil in a pan and fry on a medium heat, turning regularly.  At Nigel’s suggestion I put a lid over the patties inbetween turning.

Toast the bagels, add slices of ripe tomato onto the bottom piece of bagel, place the cooked burger on the top and cover with cheese.  Today I used mature cheddar which was very complimentary to our burgers, but I reckon a beautiful, nutty, mild cheese such as Jarlsberg or Emmental would be just as delicious.

Put the loaded bagel bottom back under the grill, to melt the cheese.  Place the other empty half of the toasted bagel on top.

Eat.

Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Soup

Sweet Potato & Butternut squash soup#2

It has been the most glorious spring day, which the wee boy and I have spent with people we love.  Moreover, I have had the chance to potter around shops I haven’t been to in a long time, which is always a delight.  If you like that kind of thing. Although, isn’t it bizarre, the less you do, the more tired you seem to be?  So although it has been a gentle day, we have arrived home quite exhausted.  But very happy.

Despite the sunshine, there is still a chill in the air, which means that a good soup doesn’t ever seem out of place.  And this one is a wonderful orange, especially if you whizz it up with a blender.

So, I melt some oil and butter, and add sliced leeks, carrots, salt and pepper, allowing them to gently simmer for a while whilst I prepare the sweet potato and squash.  Once peeled and cubed add to the pan, stir around a little and add water and a vegetable stock cube.  Bring it all to the boil and then allow to simmer until the cubed potato and squash are soft.  Put a lid on, turn the heat off, and let it cool.  Whizz it up with your trusty steed (hand blender).

Sunshine in a bowl.

Red Lentil and Mint Dhal

lentil and mint dhal

To the untrained eye, this may look like the most unappetising thing since McDonalds started putting an egg-like thing in their breakfasts – little joke there, please don’t sue me, I don’t have the money or the commitment – but it is the most delicious dhal I have ever tasted.  And I’ve tasted quite a few.

Believe it or not, I first experienced it at one of the wee boy’s friends birthday parties.  The children were having the usual array of foods that squidge or crunch, but my lovely friends had made this for the grown ups.

Heavenly on two levels.

Firstly because it meant we didn’t have to pinch, under the guise of helping our child eat, the foods that squidge etc. and secondly, because it was a taste sensation I just wasn’t prepared for, and consequently stayed with me for days afterwards.  I can even remember the exact spot I was standing in, when I first tasted it.  I kid you not.

So what makes this a ‘stand out in the crowd’ dhal then?

I think it’s the mint.  There is something about it that gives the dhal a freshness whilst complimenting the heat of the chilli.  But before you switch off, already coming out in sweats from my mere mention of chilli, the beautiful thing about this, indeed all potentially hot food, is that you can add as little or as many chilli as you like.  So when I’m making it for my family, I don’t add any extra chilli at all.  The cayenne is suffice.  I know, a revelation.

Now then, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of ghee (if you don’t have this I combine vegetable oil and a knob of butter), 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped, 1/2 teaspoon of both cayenne and turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt, 185g red lentils, 750ml water, 3-4 green chilli, chopped and 3 – 4 tablespoons of chopped mint.

Melt the ghee (or oil and butter) in a pan, add garlic, chilli, turmeric, cayenne, mix together for a minute or so then add lentils, water and salt.  Bring to the boil, then simmer, until the lentils are cooked.

Add the mint.

Stir into the dhal and simmer for approximately 2 minutes.

Nip round the corner to Medina, buy, ‘made whilst you wait, 4 for a £1’ beautiful naan bread.  Come home, heat up the dhal and eat with the naan.

It is, without doubt, the most wonderful thing to have hit your palette in a very long time.  As long as you like both lentils and mint.  Although, I would suggest that it’s worth giving it a go, even if you’re not that keen.  After all, what have you got to lose, and just look at what you might gain…

Omelette

omlette

Making an omelette is my bete noir.  Actually one of my betty noirs, as I have more than one.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that, were I to enter into an omelette making competition right now, and I were a gambling kinda gal, I would put a whole 50p on me not winning.

That, in no way, stops me from occasionally trying to make an omelette though.  Oh no.  Obviously I don’t do it often, as I am always disappointed in my efforts and astounded that I haven’t got any better at the process, but still need to check whether, by some miraculous force, I have embedded the perfect omelette making technique into my psyche through osmosis of the mind.

What, you don’t do the same?

Oh….  *moves swiftly on*

This weekend we have very little on, which I have to say is quite a relief.  It’s amazing how one weekend day packed full of irregular ‘to do’ items, really throws your rhythm of life.  However, that is not to say we’re all sat around doing sweet diddly squat.

I, for example, am seriously considering defrosting the fridge and therefore have made a lentil dhal and a saag aloo.  Because you see, the thing is, I am not a fan of cleaning in the slightest.  I know it needs doing, and, when done, I know it will look great, for the five or so minutes when no-one touches anything.  But that is just not enough of a motivating factor, in my book.

Yes, I’m happy to prance around the room with a feather duster for five minutes or so, as that is instant gratification for very little effort.  I’m even not completely averse to pushing a hoover (or is it vacuum?) about for a shortish amount of time – obviously with the exception of stairs – but a fridge?  That involves taking everything out, turning it off, letting all the ice turn to water, cleaning it, putting it back on, and filling it back up.

I think I’ll do it tonight…

Sausage Rolls

sausage rolls

As a snack, homemade sausage rolls are very hard to beat.  And although these aren’t fully homemade in the sense that really, I just buy a couple of ingredients and put them together, they have the taste and look of homemade which can often be just as good.

In fact, I would challenge anyone to make these, they are that simple.  So with certain people in my life in mind, I will describe as simply as I can, the process.

Firstly, light beat an egg, in a bowl, so that yolk and white mingle.

Take ready rolled flakey pastry out of its packet and unfurl.  A little hint here, if the pastry has been in the fridge, take it out an hour or so before using it so that it reaches room temperature, that way it won’t crack or break up when you unfurl it from the packet.

Open a 375g packet of sausage meat.  Split into three.

Put first batch of sausage meat into the shorter end of the rectangle of pastry. Stretch out into a sausage shape.  Fold over the pastry and where it meets more pastry, stick together with a little egg.  Cut away from the rest of the pastry.

Put diagonal cuts into the top of the uncooked sausage roll, brush with egg and cut into the size you would like to eat.

Repeat twice more.

Place all sausage rolls onto a baking tray and bake on the top shelf of the oven, gas mark 6, for approximately 20 minutes or until crispy golden sausage roll colour.

Leave for a couple of minutes before taking off the baking tray and placing onto the wire rack.  Use a fish slice or similar object, to do this.

For the vegetarians amongst us, replace sausage meat with cheese and onion mix. Or, alternatively, add a little italian tomato sauce to the sausage meat to… oh, I know, over complicating the issue.

The point is, not only are they are delicious as a snack, but trust me, they are a doddle to make, which is, sometimes, just what you need.

Egg & Chips

Eggs

You don’t need to say a word.  I know exactly what you’re thinking.  Glamorous.

But you know what, I don’t know of anyone who has start from scratch, home made food, seven days a week.  Of course that could be because I don’t know the right people, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that everyone likes an easy to do meal every now and again.

Unfortunately, the egg I prepared for my own plate, decided that it would perform an act trapeze artists would be proud of, and flung itself, with vigour and gusto, onto the floor at the precise moment that I was extrapolating the other eggs, (fried, naturally), from the pan.

Thank goodness the chips were those oven ones.  And just as a little aside, isn’t it amazing how a cup of tea always tastes extra specially splendid with chips?

And finally, joining the plate, was a thick slice of buttered bread.

Quite frankly, who could ask for anything more?