Friday, January 30, 2009

I wanted, I bought, I made

I love pork chops!

It is definitely getting colder we had massive snow in central London enough to stop the buses! again - ice edging puddles on the path to the bus. We are out Saturday for pizza in the day so am thinking hot/cold tapas Saturday night the man plumped for parma ham and buffalo mozzarella with a little rocket salad and fine it was to nibble on would be a treat. Sunday I'd like roast lamb with lots of garlic and butter bean mash, had that but with roasted onions and spiced rice maybe some baba ganoush and some wilted spinach for no reason other than I really fancy it. Monday I have class so the man might have to fend for himself too much snow to go to work (yay!) so porridge for breakfast, hot pitta bread stuffed with butter bean paste and salad then pork chops and potatoes and carrots and brussel sprouts for a really good supper to ward off the cold and I might have scrambled eggs when I get in. Tuesday he's out so I think I'd like grilled pork chop and salad stirfry noodles with cabbage and mushrooms. Wednesday a quick pasta after french too cold for class so we had spicy corn fritters, dahl and rocket salad, Thursday some noodles potato tortilla but sadly nothing like the one at Brindisa, Friday a little veg curry or in fact sausages and salad.

There was already a queue in Ginger Pig just after 9 - thought it might be a slow day at the Market but it seemed to generally be lookers not buyers so it wasn't too bad at all. I bought a whole shoulder of lamb but had it cut in half Sunday roast, a couple of big thick pork chops Monday dinner and a pork steak Tuesday stirfry for a total of £24.70

At Booths I bought potatoes, padron peppers bought when I was thinking tapas but so far untouched though will make a nice nibble with a drink after work, clementines lunches, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onions roasted Sunday, thyme, red pepper, rocket salads and celery for £11.50

Then to Wild Beef for eggs tortilla and sausages Friday night where Lizzie told us the snow will come and stay for a month - how right she was! - which might not be fun - £5.30

A pasty for the man for dinner Monday night in the freezer from the Mrs Elizabeth King's pork pie stand - £2.50

Prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella Saturday supper from the Italian stall - £9.70

Milk, bread and yoghurt for breakfast with rhubarb from the freezer and it was lovely from Neals Yard - £7.40

Bread freezer and a pain au raisin from Flour Power - £2.50

A hot sausage roll from Ginger Pig for miss piggy me for breakfast - £3

All together £66.60 - not bad.

Still have some of the salad veg but they will make for a crisp side for the sausages tonight, threw away the last of the rice from Sunday, still have the potatoes but they will be fine for the weekend. I bought a parsnip to make a cake, as well as more milk and butter.

This time last year we were mostly eating tofu omelette with ostrich sauce - we now have this sauce at the house in France as it is utterly perfect with duck. And peppers stirfried with blackbeans - a regular dish round our way.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ham & Leek Patties

Ham & Leek Patties

I bought a ham hock on Saturday from Silfield. I was looking for something cheap and interesting for dinner Saturday. At the bus stop before the market the man suggested ham, egg and chips which sounded a like a bit too much faff so I settled on this idea instead which I think is probably four times as much faff as his suggestion. I never learn.

However just have a look at those little beauties and tell me you wouldn't like one. I'm pleased to say that the end result was decidedly fab. But even I have to admit it took a long time getting there, though mostly not involving large amounts of actual work. It was Saturday after all.

A hock is a bit of a treasure. It is cured along with the hams and bacon and sold separately as they are equal measures of meat, fat, skin and bone. Nature's stock cube. They are cheap - £2.95 for a meaty hock that weighed 1.3kg and they yield an awful lot with not much effort. To start I simply simmered it for a couple of hours with a few aromatics giving me cooked meat, a pile of ham fat and skin, and a litre of well flavoured stock. Already a result.

The stock I froze for risotto along with half the meat. The other half of the meat I roughly shredded for my patties. Earlier in the day I dried out some leftover bread I'd frozen in bits, then blitzed it in the processor for fresh crumbs. I've been hankering for fishcakes lately - for the potato and crumbs fried till crispy as much as anything. Winter comfort.

Using the same kind of principles I use for fishcakes I finally served these up about 8.30 Saturday night. We'd been out to the cinema to see Slumdog - and no I would not recommend it - in the afternoon and got home about 4. Which is when I put the hock on to cook... might have been better if I'd cooked it earlier. Or made the patties next day.

Ham & Leek Patties

About 200g cooked ham, shredded - obviously you could just buy a piece...
About 200g floury potatoes
2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
1 egg
1/2 tspn fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Peel and cook the potatoes in boiling salted water till just cooked. Drain in a colander then put them back into the saucepan and mash them, without adding any milk or butter. Add the shredded ham, sliced leeks, nutmeg and egg and mix thoroughly so that all the chunky bits are evenly distributed through the potato. Taste a bit and season accordingly.

Put the breadcrumbs onto a flat plate.

Divide the mix into six equal portions and shape into patties. Dunk them into the crumbs to cover them generously all over. Put them onto a plate and refrigerate for at least half an hour so that they will firm up and not fall apart in the hot oil.

Heat half a centimetre of oil in the bottom of a heavy pan till very hot. Add the patties, cover with a lid, and reduce the heat only slightly. After about 5 minutes they should be crispy golden on the underside. Flip them carefully with a spatula and cook, uncovered for another 5-8 minutes till they are gold all over.

Whent they are cooked take them out of the pan and rest on a plate covered with kitchen paper to remove any grease.

Perfect served with beetroot and barley salad for a really good dinner. And very nice cold next day.

Total cost is about £1.50 given what else I can do with the rest of the hock stock and meat. Bargain!

Beetroot and Barley Salad

Beetroot and Barley Salad
This is an evolving salad that I am very taken with. It is sumptuously beautiful to look at - grated raw beetroot stains everything a deep crimson red and the walnut oil polishes everything to a glorious shine. It is a good dish for this time of year - the barley makes it chewy and substantial, the occasional nugget of toasted walnut is a treat to come across, the raw beetroot and parsley are clean and earthy with a great depth of flavour in every mouthful. It is also very simple to make. The only thing to be wary of is grating the beetroot - too much enthusiasm and the kitchen looks like the aftermath of a chainsaw massacre. I don't know why it is but as soon as I start grating beetroot it is suddenly all over the place in bright red globules no matter how careful I try to be. And it's a definite bugger to clean up.
Beetroot and Barley Salad
250g barley
1 beetroot about the size of a tennis ball, peeled and grated
100g walnuts, lightly toasted
4 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
4 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Cook the barley in boiling salted water till just al dente - about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and leave to cool.

Tip the barley into a large bowl and add the toasted walnuts, chopped parsley and grated beetroot. Stir in the oils and vinegar and mix thoroughly. Try a mouthful and season accordingly.

And that's it. It will keep happily in the fridge for a couple of days - and is a decidedly cheery sight in lunchboxes. Cheap too - I had everything I needed for this except the parsley but the cost of half a pack of barley and a beetroot and the measures of oils and things would not come to more than £2.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

Stir fried cabbage

Rumour has it that it's about to be very cold again. Wondering about a stewy thing for Saturday but also tempted by something fishy. Perhaps the man will have a desire - he did for ham egg and chips but what we had was ham & leek patties with beetroot and barley salad. Sunday I fancy roast chicken - I've got some cooked rice in the freezer for stuffing, and cheese sauce too so will make cauliflower cheese to go with it, leeks too perhaps for a proper roast dinner all of the above except we had sprouts not leeks. Monday I have class so the man can have laksa as soup from the freezer, Tuesday stirfry I think ma po tofu and stir fried cabbage to celebrate the Year of the Ox, Wednesday I shall have chili from the freezer after class with rice and sour cream. Thursday might do the dahl and cornfritters I didn't do this week lentils with an egg on top because, as I read on another blog recently, everything tastes better with an egg on top! Friday omelette. A movie and a burger out instead.

The market was busy early Saturday - seems like the respite post xmas is over. The Wheatsheaf is boarded up though not yet demolished like the shop that used to be next to it. Network Rail are planning some kind of carnage I think which must affect the market, hopefully not too badly. We shall see.

Started over in the Green Market for a change as I needed olive oil and thought it was best if it went into the bottom of my pink trolley - £16 from the Italian oil stall for a large tin

Then back to Ginger Pig where the woman ahead of me wanted chicken carcasses but they had none so I told her I'd just seen them at Wyndhams so off she went, having bought nothing. The butcher laughed as he thanked me for losing him custom. To make up for it I bought a whole chicken with flesh and skin as well as bones for Sunday roast and three days of lunches, some smoked bacon oysters with rice in the chicken stuffing the rest in the freezer and some minced beef half in ma po and half in the freezer for a total of £16.70

At Booths I wanted sweet onions, like they sell in every shop in SW France, had to ask one of the guys who kindly went and found some out the back for me with lovely silvery skins. I do have a plan but it hasn't happened yet - meanwhile they are fine Also bought potatoes both maincrop roasted Sunday and mashed for patties Saturday night and new part of the previously mentioned plan, carrots, leeks patties, fat little shiny brussel sprouts, cauliflower both with roast dinner, fennel still in the fridge may be salad this weekend but they had no clementines - £8.20

At Silfield I bought a ham hock - I saw them last week and fancied one, and the man declared he'd like ham and chips for dinner, so I decided I'd get a hock and make some little cakes with salad instead what a bonus this was - after simmering it with a few bits Saturday I had a litre of stock for the freezer, plus enough meat to put half in the freezer for a risotto plus half for ham and leek patties Saturday night and then I chopped the fat and half the skin very small and used it for the base of the lentils Thursday night - £2.95

At Gastronomica I bought fennel salami for Saturday sarnie £2.20

Coffee from Monmouth breakfast isn't breakfast without it - £9

Cheddar from Mull, milk, bread and sour cream from Neals Yard - £11.70

Then brownies and bread from Flour Power - £4

And lastly bananas from Elsey & Bent - who have such a big stall but I don't much like them, their produce is never as good as Booths or Turnips and there's never anyone around to help if you need it, so I rarely go there - £2.29

A grand total this week of £73.04 - a lot after last week but both oil and coffee push the total up.

Also bought tofu, parsley, mint, spring onions, onions, rocket, a tub of yoghurt, green lentils, a couple of baguettes and butter.

This time last year we were mostly eating spag bol - reasonably regular occurence! I love the stuff.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Risotto with borlotti beans and chorizo

Not entirely convinced that, strictly speaking, this is risotto though it does follow the conventions of that dish softening garlic and onions in butter and oil, then coating vialone nano in the oil before adding wine and then ladles of hot stock. But as well as the rice it has borlotti beans that have been soaked to swell them, then cooked before they are added, with the liquid that they were cooked in, to the pan with the rice and all that lovely starchy bean flavouring is incorporated into the finished dish. Obviously risotto is Italian, and chorizo is not - so that too gives me pause on the naming front.

Whatever you call it this is a lovely dish, rich and soothing with gradations of texture and flavour from the beans and the chorizo.

'Risotto' with borlotti beans and chorizo

3/4 cup borlotti or other speckled beans, soaked overnight
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g butter
150g chorizo, skinned and chopped coarsely
1 1/2 cups Italian short-grain, such as arborio, vialone nano, or carnaroli rice
1/2 cup well-flavored dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Drain the soaked beans then put them into a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook on a very low heat, covered, until the beans are tender—about 45 minutes. Add a little more boiling water from time to time if necessary. About five minutes from the end add some salt. When the beans are done, set aside, but do not drain.

Bring the stock to a simmer in another pan.

In a large saucepan, melt half the butter with the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, over a low heat until the onion and garlic are softened, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the chopped chorizo and the rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until the bits of chorizo are softened and the rice is well coated with the fat in the pan.

Add the white wine, raise the heat slightly, and cook rapidly until the rice has absorbed the wine.

Stir in the beans with their cooking liquor and continue cooking until most of the bean liquid has been absorbed.

Add a ladle or two of the simmering stock, stirring to mix well. As the rice absorbs the broth, keep adding more, a ladle or two at a time, stirring pretty much continuously, until the rice is just cooked all the way through and the dish is creamy.

When the rice is done but still al dente, remove from the heat, taste and add season. Then stir in the 2 tablespoons of cheese and the rest of the butter.

Cover the pan and set aside, away from the heat, for 5 minutes or so to combine all the flavors well.

Serve in deep bowls.

Perfect Sunday night winter dish.

I had everything to make this at home - stock and chorizo in the freezer and the rest in the cupboard - but it would be cheap to enough to make. Around £5 I'd hazard, and you have the rest of the sauvignon blanc to drink, which puts it into a different budget!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

Fennel, carrot and celery salad with good oil dressing
The temperature has gone from minus whatever to nudging double figures and feels positively tropical. Think I should have a salad this week to celebrate... Tonight it will be laksa from the freezer with noodles and beansprouts I can pick up in chinatown on the way home as medicine for the man who has come down with manflu. Poor baby. Saturday will be something with rice in order to join in the Guardian's new bite club - risotto perhaps or am tempted by the stuffed pheasant breasts to copy the inauguration dinner for the new President. the man requested chicken and mash - proper comfort food - and we had peas and the gravy from xmas out of the freezer and it was incredibly good! I have a hankering for fish cakes which might be nice Sunday with salad risotto with chorizo and beans, very fine indeed and good for lunch boxes for a couple of days. Monday I am out so the man can have lasagne from the freezer, Tuesday the belly pork from last week with sea spice, dry fried green beans and rice and cold for lunch next day, Wednesday pasta I made pasta with parma ham and raddichio that sounded like it would be a proper treat with half the ham and raddichio cooked with butter and rosemary and the other half stirred through raw but the result was slightly bitter so not a triumph just okay and just okay for lunch Thursday after class, Thursday lentils topped with an egg steak and salad dressed with Good Oil, a light oil made from hemp seed that made for a delicate dressing with crusty bread - lovely and Friday, maybe steak. Or maybe not. Dinner out for a change!

My man was very very ill - struck down by manflu - and so I trekked alone to Borough Saturday morning with a short list. It was cold and wet and very quiet. At Ginger Pig I bought two chicken breasts with mash and peas and gravy for a wonderfully comforting meal Saturday night for £5.99 - probably the least I have ever spent there!

Then to Booths for potatoes, rosemary, clementines, raddichio (I had to ask which of the red leafed items it was - thought it was the round vaguely lettuce looking one but then wondered if it might be the longer thinner chicory looking one - it's the round one) and onions for £3.30 - another record low spend

I bought parma ham and buffalo mozzarella from the Italian stall - £9.90 - hoping to tempt my sweetheart into trying a little lunch didn't work but I liked it! Then had ham on toast for Sunday breakfast - too too decadent!

Then bought a baguette from the marché shop just for a change Saturday lunch and the rest in the freezer for some crumbs, it was nice enough but not as good as the english stick from Neals Yard - £1.30

At Neals Yard I bought only milk - £1.45 - and only one litre at that! did have some still in the fridge and so we just had enough to get to Friday

From Flour Power I bought a cottage loaf and asked for one brownie but they were having a sale and it was £2 for one or £3 for 2 and my sweetie had asked for chocolate to soothe his throat so, needless to say, it was £4 I spent

Feel I did really well - only spent £25.94 - a definite record low! Only possible really because we are having things from the cupboard and freezer as well as the food I bought but it was easy to carry home on the bus.

Also bought frozen peas, parma ham from Gazzanis in Clerkenwell and a baguette for Thursday night - so a fairly cheap week indeed

Nothing much thrown away except the last of the salad, but I had used the fennel, chicory, celery and carrots I'd bought the week before so it's not bad

This time last year we were mostly eating stir fry pork, cabbage and wood ear which is very like the dish we had Tuesday. We spent nearly£75 - so this week at least I can believe I've economised!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leek & Stilton Quiche

Christmas is over, dragged off somewhere into the past and yet, somehow, I still had a small piece of Stilton in the fridge like the remains of christmas past. This time of year I believe stilton to be seasonal - xmas just isn't xmas without a chunk of colsten basset from Neals Yard. There was also though a large hunk of pecorino from Gastronomica and a brique du juissac from Comptoir Gascon. Along with the mass of other food we had I guess it's not entirely surprising there is a little left a couple of weeks afer the event.

I cannot throw it away - no! no! it says to me in it's little stilton voice - even past its best it is far too fabulous for that.
We had dinner with Jaey and Marie recently and we ended with another big block of stilton that they paired with home made chocolate truffles - the match of rich dairy salted and rich dairy sweet was just brilliant. So I wondered about pairing the cheese with the sweetness of winter leeks, which really are in season! - all bound together with eggs and cream in a pastry case to make quiche. Because I am very fond of quiche.

It was a quite splendid result.

Leek & Stilton Quiche

Prepared shortcrust pastry (I had some in the freezer from my last quiche)
About 100g stilton, grated
500g leeks, cut in to 1cm slices
1 large onion, finely diced
Clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Leaves picked from a bushy sprig of thyme
50g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 eggs
284ml tub of double cream
Salt and pepper

In a large pan melt the butter into the olive oil then add the leeks and onions and thyme and garlic. Stir to coat thoroughly with the buttery oil and cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, till all is softly fragrant and melded. Season.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Meanwhile, butter and flour a (loose bottomed if you have one) pie dish about 18cm across. Roll out the pastry to about 5mm thickness and line the pie dish. Cover with greaseproof and fill with baking beans and cook for about 12 minutes. This is baking blind.

Take the case from the oven, remove the paper and beans and allow the shell to cool.

When the leeks are soft turn off the heat and allow to cool a bit till they are warm.

In a bowl beat the eggs and cream and season. Add to the leeks.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pastry base then top with the eggs/leeks mixture.

Cook in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes till the custard is set and the top is richly golden.

Definite result. Nice warm, possibly even better cold next day.

Also very cheap - had the cheese and pastry already so the cost was about £4. To buy the cheese would add about £1.80. Easily serves 6 with bread and salad - or in our case, a coupel of dinners and a couple of lunches, all of them a pleasure.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chili con carne topped with coriander salsa

"My feeling about chili is this: Along in November, when the first northern strikes, and the skies are gray, along about five o'clock in the afternoon, I get to thinking how good chili would taste for supper. It always lives up to expectations. In fact, you don't even mind the cold November winds." So said Lady Bird Johnson - and she may well have added that the same applies all the way through to about March. Though it originated in (probably) Mexico chili con carne is now a classic American dish to such an extent that it is the official dish of the US state of Texas.

True chili contains no beans. It is rather a spicy stew made from chili peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin. And anything else is a bastardisation of the original. Which is fine by me - my personal history will attest to a penchant for bastards. For me it needs beans - usually kidney beans but they can be red or black - or some borlotti beans with their pretty speckled shells. And there is tomato for juice. The version I made this week also had cinnamon stick and a liberal addition of hot smoked paprika from Brindisa for a really deep complex spicing. Perfect on a cold night. Much like many a bastard!

I wanted to top it with a coriander salsa that I haven't made for ages but the recipe for which came from my friend Vicki. Despite the fact that she lives in Singapore and has done for a couple of years we still maintain a frequent conversation via the magic that is the internet. So I emailed her and confused her totally as she doesn't use it on chili but rather on nachos. It's me, in the past, who has used it on a black bean vegetarian version of chili. When we finally understood each other she mailed back the necessary info.

Here it is, in case you fancy nachos rather than - or as well as - chili...

Ahhhh.... the salsa and guacamole I used to put on nachos!

Fresh corriander, lime juice, tabasco, tinned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, spring onions, 1 clove garlic - salt & pepper.... chop/mix in food processor - not too fine...
Leave a bit in the blender/bowl - add chopped/mashed avocado..... extra lime juice/tabasco.
I used to stand the nachos chips up in refried beans on their end (like hedgehog spines) and put a mix of mozarella & cheddar on top - crispy in oven - put salsa on one end - guacamole on the other - dribble with sour cream.... best nachos in the world!

Chili Con Carne

2 onions, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small chilli, finely chopped - deseed it first if you're looking for mild heat
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked off
3 tbspns olive oil
500g beef mince
1 tspn ground cumin
2 tbspns hot paprika - use sweet if you're looking for mild heat
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cans of chopped tomatoes - use the other half to make the salsa
200ml of chicken stock or water - please don't use stock cubes they are disgusting
3 tbspns tomato purée
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
400g tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

Sour cream to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan and sweat the onions, garlic, chilli and thyme for about 20 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the dried spices to the onions and stir for a few minutes. Add the beef and mix well, then cook over a high heat till the meat is browned.

Add the tomatoes and bubble for about ten minutes, then add the stock and the tomato paste. Drop in the cinnamon and bay leaf and bring the pan to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and let it cook gently for half an hour or so.

As the sauce starts to thicken add the drained beans and season well. Continue simmering for another 20 minutes.

Check the seasoning then serve over plain boiled rice and a dollop of coriander salsa and sour cream on top for an utterly satisfying meal.

Total cost with rice and sour cream and coriander salsa is about £8 and it will easily make 6 generous servings. We had it for dinner Monday night and I have two tubs in the freezer for other nights - making for an easy time another night.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

Red onions for roasting with beef

Have a massively major foodchain this Sunday making lunch for 92 - with help, obviously! - and so am having a little trouble concentrating on what will be only a few other meals for the week. But I need to be very quick at Borough Saturday morning so I definitely need a plan. So, randomly, Saturday will be fish mussels with chilli and black beans, Sunday roast beef rare and fabulous I think as it will be easy and will make for nice lunchboxes. Monday chilli con carne with some of the mince from Wild Beef I bought last week over rice which I made leftovers into salad for lunches, Tuesday something eggy perhaps leek & stilton quiche, Wednesday the rest of the chilli chilli into freezer as we had quiche after french, Thursday stir fry pork needed to use the aubergine from last week so we had curry with chick peas, Friday is a long way away here now and it will be laksa from the freezer as the man now has the flu - the very serious man version, obviously.

Saturday morning was beyond cold - seriously think the liquid in my eyeballs froze as I walked from the bus to Borough Market. Started at Ginger Pig where there were no customers and all the butchers looked dazed with the temperature - one of them was even convinced the meat was colder than usual which made me laugh. Bought a big hunk of topside Sunday dinner and lunches till Thursday and a slice of belly pork in the freezer - £24

Then to Booths where the veg were like ice - quickly picked up potatoes, sprouts Sunday dinner, leeks quiche Tuesday and then Wednesday and lunch Friday, carrots, beans still there, should be okay, coriander with mussels Saturday, spring onions still there but fine, fennel, chicory for salad that was never made but fine for the weekend and celery some in rice salad and some still to use - £8.20

Had really fancied crumbed cod and chips Saturday night but realised I didn't have enough breadcrumbs so it was mussels Saturday night I bought at Furness - £4.50

Then over to see Richard at Wild Beef who was talking to a woman who was clearly upset. Turns out that a few minutes earlier she had paid him £16 for a chicken that she then put into the top of her fairly full trolley and then when she went to put the next purchase in there the chicken was gone. She'd gone back to the stall in the hope that she had forgotten to pick it up but sadly that was not the case - someone is stealing from trolleys at Borough. Beware! I bought eggs for us and six boxes for food chain and when I got home I had six and not seven boxes in the top of my fairly full trolley - £1.50

Then to Gastronomica for parmesan because we had run out and I like to always have some in the fridge - £5

Almost but not quite entirely frozen I went to Neals Yard for milk, double quiche and sour cream to top chili and an english stick of bread lunch Saturday - £9.20

Then another loaf from Flour Power - £1 for hot toast when we got home

So I spent £53.40

Also bought green pepper, onions, coriander, tomatoes, a lime and clementines Monday, plus butter, tinned kidney beans and tomatoes and a stick of bread, then went to chinatown Friday and bought beansprouts, ginger, chilli oil, chilli bean sauce, peanut oil, fresh noodles, and both ground cumin and coriander - funny how everything seems to run out at once.

The last of the rice salad and the last of the coriander salsa went into the bin as both were beyond edible.

This time last year we were mostly eating mussels - but with white wine and tarragon and before that home style bean curd and the very healthy millet and spiced broccoli.

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

New year, heartfelt resolutions, need to be healthy - you know the spiel I'm sure. All a bit hair shirt really in these dark days of chill winter. Fear not, feast with bron has the answer - pleasure and comfort wrapped up in dense rich velvety chocolate. But definitely good for you, part of the new going forward plan. These delicious little suckers are made with beetroot - giving them depth and moistness and giving you the moral high ground because you've had one of your five a day. Perfect, no?

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies
250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus a little more for greasing
250g plain chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g self-raising flour
250g cooked and peeled beetroot, grated or puréed

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/ gas mark 3. Lightly grease a baking tin that's roughly 20cm x 30cm in size and at least 2cm deep. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper and butter the paper, too.

Put the cubed butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl held over a pan of barely simmering water.

In another bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Sift in the flour, stir, fold in the beetroot. Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife or skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it - be careful not to overcook the brownies. Remove from the oven, then stand the tray on a wire rack until cool enough to cut into squares.

It comes from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls column in the Guardian last year - and he says it makes 15 squares. His idea of squares are a bit bigger than mine - it can make a few more if needs be!

It cost about £6 - with the chocolate on special at Waitrose.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Beef & Mushroom Cobbler

It is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cold.

I realise it's winter and I know that it's not an unexpected event but WOW. Seriously minimal temperatures for ten days now and more set to come. We had a robin bob bob bobbing in the garden christmas day making quite a racket for such a little bird and now we have snow.

Really needed something that was cockle warming Saturday night to get us through the weekend and hopefully banish the last of my flu. Had to be something vaguely traditional rather than spicy for some reason so I settled on stew made special with the addition of cobblers. Before I came to London cobblers was the slightly old fashioned term for a group of shoe repairers. Then I moved here and discovered that cobblers is in fact freighted with meaning. Bit rude, even.

Cobblers is a classic of Cockney rhyming slang. It originates from cobbler's awls, which are the pointed hand-tools that cobblers use to pierce holes in leather. The rhyme is with balls, or testicles (presumably spoken in the broadest of cockney accents). Lots of people use it as a sort of expletive, possibly unaware of where it came from, to such an extent that it is now considered an acceptable vulgarism.

Upon my arrival on these shores another unknown - to me at least - meaning of cobblers is a rough topping for pies, named for the shape of cobble stones rather than balls I suspect... It's lovely stuff, essentially a cheesy herby wet scone dough that puffs gently on top of your stew, adding fragrance and carbs and stretching your meat to feed more. All that could possibly be desired.

Beef & Mushroom Cobbler

500g diced stewing steak
400g onion, roughly chopped
2 tbspns olive oil
500g field mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 tbspns butter
2 sprigs thyme
2 bayleaves
1 tbspn tomato paste
2 tbspn plain flour
500ml stock or water

For the cobblers
Small bunch of chives, thinly sliced
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
85g butter
75g Parmesan freshly grated
225ml full fat mik

Make the cobblers first. Sift the baking powder and flour together in a bowl. Chop the cold butter into the flour and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until you have what looks like pale yellow breadcrumbs. Stir in the chives and the grated Parmesan along with a good grinding of black pepper. Then gradually add the milk to make a sort of wet scone dough. Don't over mix it. Put the bowl into the fridge till you are ready to use it.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the meat till it just starts to brown. Remove it from the pan and set it to one side.

Return the pan to the heat and add the chopped onions. Stir frequently and cook over a moderate heat till they just start to caremalise - about 20 minutes.

Add the meat to the onions and then add the tomato paste and flour. Stir for a couple of minutes till the flour is incorporated into the mix then add the herbs and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently, with the lid on the pan, for about an hour.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a separate pan and fry the mushrooms. When they give up their moisture keep them on a low heat till most of it evaporates.

Add the cooked mushrooms and their remaining juice to the meat. Season.

Continue to cook over a low heat for half an hour.

Put the meat into a good sized casserole dish and top with spooned lumps of the cobbler mix. Bake at gas4/moderate/250F for 30 minutes till the top is a mass of golden lumps.

Serve with boiled carrots and sprouts.

This will serve four very generously and cost £4.25 for the meat, £1.50 for the mushrooms and less than 50p for the rest of the bits. Saucy!

Friday, January 02, 2009

And so it is 2009...

Cured venison with whisky cream for New Year

And there will be a little tightening of belts moneywise but no reduction in the pursuit of wonderful food. Having thought about it just a little this week I am planning beef and mushroom cobbler Saturday night andit was perfect for a cold night, roast pork and parsnips cooked the last of the parsnips from Abel & Cole, steamed and mashed and then layered with sliced apples and topped with brown sugar for a very interesting accompaniment Sunday that then made for good lunchboxes with roasted sweet potatoes and raw sugarsnaps till Wednesday, cobblers leftovers Monday for me as the man is out the I went too so cobblers was, Tuesday will be tofu and stirfry, Wednesday pasta with - wait for it - brussel sprouts needs a liitle tweaking but enjoyed it and it was good cold for Thursday lunch! Thursday will be aubergine and rice was in fact the tofu and courgette slivers stirfried for a quite wonderful dinner and leftovers Friday for lunch. Friday sausage sarnies with onion gravy. A good week and one I am looking forward to.

Borough was incredibly quiet - lots of empty spaces where there would normally be traders and blissfully free of tourists - and most other kinds of punters too. As the only customer in Ginger Pig I bought a fabulous piece of rolled pork and some diced stewing beef - £19.70

Then to Booths for veg - carrots, courgettes, sugar snap peas, sweet potatoes, aubergine, onions, mushrooms, cooking apples and a single parsnip to have enough to go with our roast - £10.30

Over to the Green Market half expecting to not find the Wild Beef stall but not only was Lizzie there she was having a sale! So, as well as the eggs I needed I also bought 2 packs of coarse ground mince and a pack of porridge oats - £8.50 the lot. Total bargain.

Dark oily coffee beans from Monmouth - £9

A pork pie because it is so long since we had one - £5

Then had a quick look in Silfields tempted by the idea of a three bird roast on sale, resisted that but succumbed to a pack of sliced honey roast ham reduced to £1

Over to Neals Yard for pasta, milk and bread - £9.80

A cottage loaf from Flour Power - £1

So despite the desire to be frugal I spent £64.30

Later that Saturday after enjoying a screening of Che Part 1 I went to the shops on Electric Avenue and bought rice, tofu, red lentils and fresh ginger - stocks of everything were down!

In the week I bought butter, flour both plain and self raising, and caster sugar.

The only thing that went into the bin was the last of the pasta as I cooked too much, the aubergine is still in the fridge but it will be fine, the mince from Wild Beef is in the freezer for future feasts.

One year ago we were mostly eating pot roasted guinea fowl - and indeed we had a roasted guinea fowl with lentils to welcome the new year and two years ago we were tucking into tagliatelle with porcini and sage which would be nice again now on these cold cold nights.