Savings at Tesco

Monday, 1 February 2016

Having vision - the bigger picture

Of late I have created a vision board - something I heard of a while ago - likewise mind mapping. Both ideas are meant to focus the individual into realising the positives and enterprise in one's life. They are both highly visual and work well with the sub-conscious mind. Yes, you are reading Phil Lowe's food blog, only this time it is about the bigger picture - mainly my life in writing.

The top left hand corner is all about my enjoyment and successes in Germany. The top right concerns my theatre writing and a recent talk I wrote and did at Nottingham Playhouse. The two A4 sheets are a mind map of where I believe my theatre website is heading and the one below is a list of glowing testimonials relating to my theatre writing from magazines and PR sections of professional theatres. The Nat West cheque represents wished for earnings and the middle section featuring my female friends is about enjoying my life as a theatre reviewer and the pleasant company it affords me.

The bottom left hand corner is about my successes in the world of food and my love of France and travelling abroad to discover more about foreign eating habits and food practices.
I am also keeping a journal to illustrate my gratitude for all the positives that come into my life and change it for the better. By recognising these I am already feeling the benefits and associated happiness.
Phil Lowe



Saturday, 23 January 2016

Using up some food items to save a bit of cash. Peanut butter chicken and sardine stew.

Well it must be January again as I find myself once again in frugal mode and using up food items in the kitchen cupboards and fridge and freezer. I've even got into the habit of leaving something out to defrost before I leave for work in the morning and feeling terribly righteous as I cook the item in the evening. This righteousness is tempered financially by the fact that very often I have bought something like fresh veg in the daytime to go with the defrosted whatever. Oh well. At least I am attempting to use up a freezer chock a block with fish and meat I have purchased throughout 2015 and meals in aluminium trays where I have cooked too much and have been loathe to chuck the remaining scraps in the bin.

Here are a few examples of my frugality and invention. Firstly I found a jar of organic peanut butter I bought on a whim last year and, as of late,was still in my fridge. The contents were nearly solid as the fridge isn't very well at the moment. Keeps freezing up. Rather than throw it out I left it out on the side for a day so the peanut butter was a bit less permafrostic (not a real word but it sounds good) and then I chopped up two chicken breasts and marinated the breasts in peanut butter overnight. I also added a sachet of satay sauce that was at the back of my store cupboard for a moister effect.

The next day I scraped off the majority of the crunchy peanut butter from the raw chicken and stir fried the chicken and ate it with some chopped tomatoes and a mix of delicious baby salad leaves. Interestingly the salad leaves, purchased from the local greengrocer in a plastic tub, have kept much better than a bag of wet salad leaves from a supermarket. The tub was 100g and five days later it still appears fresh and crisp.

I also made use of a special offer at work where fresh sardines are only £1.50 per kg. I made a simple stew with four tins of cheap chopped tomatoes banged into a casserole dish, some tinned beans for texture and half a dozen filleted and fried sardines for extra fishy and salty flavour.

I cleaned and filleted the sardines and shallow fried them after coating the fillets in plain flour to stop them sticking to the frying pan. The finished fish them got added to the ingredients in the casserole and the warmed through sardine stew (45 mins on gas mark 6 - 160 electric) was served with some penne pasta. No picture of the finished dish as it came out a bit too blurred. I blame the white wine I imbibed whilst cooking!

Clearly these super fresh sardines don't come from a tin!

filets with the breast bones

trimmed filets of sardines

sardines filets dusted in plain flour and a shake of ground black pepper

I also found some shallot onions in a vase that last saw the light of day around Christmas so I de-skinned them and shallow fried them and added them to the sardine, tomato and bean stew. Fab!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas dinner in Leiden Holland. Stage six.

Hi dearest Phil, Emma and Ronald here from Leiden. Merry Christmas to you! As for our Dutch Christmas, I'll free-associate for you:

Christmas in the Netherlands is two days, not one, called "First-" and "Second Christmas Day." They have equal importance, though church services are only on "First Christmas Day" (25th December) and Christmas Eve. This means that you can see your family on one day and your in-laws on the other day. The same happens at Easter and Pentecost.

Emma and Ronald

The main difference between Dutch and English Christmas is gift-giving. In the Netherlands, gifts are traditionally exchanged on Sinterklaas, the evening of 5th December. A gift is accompanied by a personalised rhyming poem, and it is traditionally wrapped to look as if it is something else. The focus is on children, but adults exchange gifts as well, generally as a "secret santa" so that, within a family, you only have to buy a gift and write a poem for one other family member.

Sinterklaas, or "Sint Niklaas" - Saint Nicolas, is the basis of our Father Christmas. Apparently, when the Dutch and English lived in the US, the English became jealous of the Sinterklaas tradition, and so Father Christmas, or "Santa Claus" (sounds like "Sint Niklaas") was created.

All this means that the Dutch Christmas does not centre around gift-giving or Father Christmas, since all this happens earlier in the month. This leaves Christmas free to be a pleasant holiday with an optional religious element, and a strong focus on family.

There is no traditional Christmas dinner: indeed, "Christmas Dinner" to the Dutch generally means English turkey roast. However, there are some typical dishes. In strictly-puritan Katwijk, they eat pork filet in a creamy sauce. Many families eat game, in particular jugged-hare. A more recent tradition is "gourmetten," where you sit at the table with a special grill pan and grill your own meat and fish. (I'm not sure what this is called in English, but I've seen the sets for sale in Lidl so we must have it). In general, the aim is to sit at the table together as long as possible, so meals tend to consist of several small, luxurious courses and not one huge roast.

Although there are no set menus, there are some traditional Christmas sweets. There are little chocolate wreaths, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and filled with fondant, chocolate holly leaves, and "Duivekater," a sweet white bread which resembles brioche.

Emma and myself rehearsing in Leiden October 2104

For me, as an English girl living in Holland, Christmas seemed a bit of an anticlimax at first. However, I have come to enjoy it and even prefer it. There is no last-minute shopping, no fighting for the turkeys in the supermarket, no manic gift-buying and wrapping, no compulsory over-eating and drinking... It is more like the English Easter: a quiet day off.

And what did I cook for my in-laws? Since they're not strict puritans, I chose game.

 We had five small courses:

-Butternut squash and ginger soup with sesame oil
-Scallops wrapped in parma ham with a crystal ginger glaze
-Mango and passion fruit sorbet in limoncello
-Venison casseroled with cranberries and chestnuts (see link) with gratin potatoes and green asparagus
-Lemon posset (see link) with raspberries and gingerbread

They left at around 22:00 and Ronald and I went for a short walk. The streets were quiet, and through the uncurtained windows we could see families sitting round tables in various stages of their meals. It was very cosy.

I would like you to think that it was a calm, quiet family Christmas. But that would be a little lie. For there was one chaotic element: my five-month old kitten. She wanted to try everything. She even stole a raw scallop which we extracted from her and threw away. And, poor thing, when she tried to explore on the table itself, she singed her whiskers in a candle flame before we could grab her.

Naughty kitten

Still, it was a wonderful day, and I would really recommend Christmas in Holland. Lots of love xx M and Ronald.

A fascinating foodie Christmas in France from the blog of Ken Broadhurst.

I am sometimes not able to find the time to read other people's blogs as much as I would like to and today (realising I had nothing from my beloved France in terms of the recent European Christmas dinners blogposts) I found Ken Broadhurst's delightful festive posts from the Loire on my listings.

Here are a list of my favourite December 2015 blogposts from him. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Phil x

The turkey is in the pot.

Talkin' Turkey.

Culinairement -en-radote.

Foie Gras for Christmas.

Le Pere Noel in Saint Aignan.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

European Christmas Dinners. Stage Five. Roast Duck and Beef Roast from Karlsruhe!

“Hi Phil, sorry we have no pictures of the meals but I was so busy with meeting with my family and my godson. However, I will try to describe it for you." Lena and Sascha xx Fondest greetings from Karlsruhe!!!!

"Lieber Phil, on Christmas Eve my mum made duck with red cabbage and dumplings – this is a very typical Christmas dinner in our part of Germany. Traditionally we would have it with Spätzle and Rotkohl as I have  already described. The duck is spiced with salt, pepper and sometimes paprika. The whole meal can also be served with mashed potatoes, asparagus and green beans too. It is especially nice to find baked apple sauce around the pork. Lecker!!!

Yesterday my boyfriend Sascha made almost the same as you made in England!!!! This is a special roast that is called Rollbraten in German. With it we had potatoes, mit Bratensoße (delicious roast gravy) fresh vegetables and a sauce of green pepper.

Typisches Rollbraten.

All the best to you for Christmas and we very much look forward to seeing you in May 2016!

Lena and Sascha. Karlsruhe. Germany.

Christmas dinners in Europe. Just when you think you can't eat anymore! Stage Four from the Rheinland!

Later last night my German friend Thorsten Feldmann from the Rheinland Palatinate sent me some more pictures and information about a meal for eight that his father had put together for their evening repast on Christmas Day. You would think that they were already stodged from the lamb lunch aber gar nicht! But not at all!

"Hi Phil! Here is the evening meal cooked by my Father.
To start, carrot ginger soup and a variety of four salads. For the main, stuffed pork cheeks with a broad variety of roast vegetables including Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower. By the way, although we already full from the lamb at lunchtime the stuffed pigs cheeks (that you thought were chicken!) are for eight hungry people. Cheese sauce and gravy (jus) are added to finish the dish. For dessert we have marscapone cream and raspberries. We will sleep well tonight!"


The finished main dish with pasta!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas dinners. Stage three. This time to Buenos Aires.

This time I asked my friend and very talented artist Cheryl De Los Reyes Cruz, who is based in Argentina, how she had so far celebrated Christmas and I was fascinated to hear of a food based event on Christmas Eve that she had enjoyed before the promise of huge Christmas day lunch today.

Cheryl (left)

The event depicted through these photographs (below) took place in the barrio called Nunez in Buenos Aires around 10pm on Christmas Eve. She was with her friend Andrea Toledo and her family. Her uncle is a chef and Cheryl told me that he prepared some really amazing dishes. There was octopus salad, shrimp salad, tongue, a pineapple salad and roasted pork with prune stuffing. She enjoyed plenty of wine and champagne and loved listening to others performing Karaoke but (laughing) insisted that she didn't perform herself! The dessert was a lemon mouse with dulce de leche.

More fascinating detail sent to me midday on Boxing Day. Copying the spelling correctly took some doing! Thanks Cheryl.

"Hey Phil, just to let you know and for more authentic detail : the octopus salad is called Pulpo al Olivo (Peruvian), shrimp salad is Coctel de Camarones. The pork dish is called Carre de Cerdo Mechado con Curuelas. Chips de Batatas y Guarnacion de Peras Cebollas Confitadas. The dessert is Mousse de Maracuya con Mereings y Salsa Toffee.The chef's name is Jorge Sanchez."