Savings at Tesco

Monday, 23 November 2015

Friendly cat helps write website content.

Next door's cat Mr Harris is no stranger to my house. In fact I am surprised that he isn't scratching at my front door right now. He always seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing at which point I am the most busy and don't really need him to walk across the keyboard on my laptop or try to place his furry head on the caps lock button or press control alt delete with his dexterous paws.

Here he is warming his cat bum by the laptop engine. Mr Harris gets so thrilled to be by my side that he is prone to dribbling too. The feline saliva usually threatens to drip somewhere in the gaps between QWERTY and ASFGH. I have to keep moving his head away from the keys. At this point he thinks I am fussing him so he dribbles and purrs so much that the cat dribble goes even further, like in my cup of tea.

As the observant among you may have noticed I have a wall chart in my small kitchen now. This is so I can keep track of the increasing amount of theatre and show reviewing opportunities that are coming my way. To take my original theatre blog up to an even more professional level I have developed a theatre website through WordPress. It has been created so that I can promote theatre going throughout the East Midlands and is proving a hit. It has been a labour of love and I am more than a little obsessed by it. Here it is

I am still working full time at Tesco but I am hoping that the new website will lead to more paid writing opportunities in 2016 and arts sponsorship to enable me to seriously consider writing about theatre full-time.

I have been making big meals so I can just warm up a stew or curry for tea and I came up with a way to make Peshwari naan bread even sweeter than it normally is. I would normally place the bread in tin foil and warm through in the oven for about ten minutes before eating. Last Thursday night however I got inspired to drizzle the breads pre oven with Lyle's Golden Syrup and chuck on a few fresh pomegranate seeds as they came steaming out of the oven. Delicious!

Ah! I hear Mr Harris scratching at the door. I'll just tidy up the office kitchen side before he comes in. "Coming Mr Harris!"

Monday, 16 November 2015

The kindness of strangers - fresh baked apple pies

On the latter part of the way home on Saturday night I spotted a full plastic bag on the grassy curb on Kirk Lane in Ruddington. I had a feeling it might be windfall cooking apples left out for free by kind property owners on the lane.

It was a dark and rainy evening and  I was keen to get home after a busy and tiring day at work. Two bottles of what turned out to be 'more expensive than I expected' white wine were rattling in my shopping bag along with a few other bits and pieces. I thought the wine was a bargain reduction offer of £2.75 each but turned out to be just two bottles dumped on the reduction shelf at Tesco and actually cost £7.10 each!!! No wonder my shopping bill was higher than I would normally pay.

Kirk Lane in the daytime.

Anyway, I picked up the bag of apples and made my way home. On reaching my kitchen I put away the shopping and opened the bag of very nice un-bruised cooking apples. At this point I had no puff pastry or pie trays and I spent a proportion of my Saturday evening happily peeling the apples and stewing them. For extra sweetness I added three dessert spoons of brown sugar and mixed in two cinnamon sticks for added flavour. From the freezer, I got out some local blackberries (picked and frozen in 2013) as well as the remainder of a packet of Summer Fruits.

The next day I bought a pack of four pie tins and some Puff Pastry whilst on a break at work and when I got back home I made two apple and fruit pies and decided to give one to my grateful neighbour Betty.

I went back to Kirk Lane to take the photographs that illustrate this blog post and someone else has left out two big barrels of apples for free. Such is the kindness of strangers and some small comfort in a world where the news is about the terrorist atrocities in the beautiful city of Paris.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Magic in my neighbour' s garden and chocolate spag bol.

As my back is nearly healed thanks to rest, massage, pain killers and the strong but gentle (ish) manipulations of the local osteopath I am returning to work soon after a week off. It has been an interesting time. On October 15th I decided to create a theatre website on the back of nearly three years worth of theatre reviewing and a wish to look at developing my theatre promotions and theatre writing even more professionally. For those of you who have an interest in such matters it is

Sitting propped up aided by multiple cushions on my settee I have been able to occupy my time with creating copy to promote certain events and plays in the East Midlands region. Harris the cat was very sweet but not overly helpful in insisting on plonking his furriness on my lap. He likes the warmth and regular fussing. There isn't really room for a cat and a laptop on my lap never mind when I can hardly move or twist but somehow we endured.

On my return from the osteopath this lunchtime I noticed some nice things that looked quite magical in my neighbour's garden. Firstly (she is a talented florist) the heart shaped and very colourful floral heart on her house wall and secondly droplets of water on some lily type plants in her cottage garden. All very lovely and cheery. Just what I needed on this grey day.

This evening I have made a yummy spag bol and added eight small cubes of plain dark chocolate into the final cook through. I love spag bol but can't stop eating this rich tasting version! I used penne pasta in this dish with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Carrying a quarter of a cow upstairs with a bad back.

Unfortunately I happen to be off work at the moment with an injured back. Thankfully I haven't had one of those for a while. In fact the last and worst time was probably in the late 1980s when I was last in the traditional butchery trade. I was off work for thirteen weeks. These were the days when men were men and pussy footing around the sensitivities of staff was unheard of. Hurt your back? Can hardly walk? Wimp! Carry this slippery hindquarter of beef weighing twice your weight up these narrow stairs to the cutting room! Ger on wi it!

So, as I sit painfully on my settee reading and catching up on emails I find myself looking through a few old pictures from 'back in the day'. The images remind me of a lot more than the actual objects reveal.

Sides of smoky bacon. I used to love boning these out mainly from the knife skill satisfaction of the job but also the proper rich smoky bacon smell and the feel of the nearly dry bacon. I liked the feeling of pulling the long rib bones from the flesh and the satisfaction of completing a job in  good time.

Butchers' tape dispenser. Used for sealing the plastic bags that the meat was given to the customer. The tape often broke and to find the end was often as frustrating as trying and failing to find the end of a split roll of sellotape. To top it all customers would be waiting impatiently during your struggle.

Interior of a tenderising machine. This took a lot of cleaning and could be very sharp or, equally, very blunt. They were hardly worth the effort of using them as they would often rip the meat going through to shreds.

The bacon slicing machine. Much used and very dangerous and a pig to clean. One of my old managers (now in butchers heaven gawd bless him) managed to slice his hand four inches across and down to the bone whilst cleaning the circular blade. He just spat on the wound and carried on. Well that's a lie really. He nearly fainted and I had to call an ambulance as he went whiter than a sheet of greaseproof paper in sunny spot and bled copiously into a greasy hand towel.

Stolen bikes. It's funny the things you think you remember that may not have been true or as accurately true as you think. Even today I have dreams about working in a trad butcher's environment and being late for work or miles away from work because my bike is in bits or has been stolen. I used to think that maybe I had a succession of racing bikes nicked from the back of the shop or from the yard behind the shop. In actual fact I probably only had one or two bikes taken by casual thieves so why I should have these alarming dreams all these years later I don't know.

Creating attractive window displays. Apart from a short spell at Bosworths the Family Butchers in Little Eaton my main proper butchering work was for Dewhurst The Master Butcher and Rydes The Pork Butchers in Derbyshire. For both establishments the focus of the day was to create attractive displays (and in Dewhurst's case - quite elaborate) to draw custom into the shops. These were jobs that had to be done at speed by half a dozen staff male and there was a pride in the work and also in maintaining a decent display throughout the day. The ladies who served usually had the job of keeping the cooked and cold meats sections clean and tidy and to cut the limited styles of cheese as well as serve. They were never involved in the actual butchery of cutting up carcasses or carrying hunking great pieces of dead animal about with a bad back.

Block brush. Meant for scrubbing down and removing fat from the wooden blocks that we used to cut and prepare meat on. The 'bristles' are shards of metal and the brush illustrated would be brand new. After a few usages the bristles would be bent out of shape and loved to dig into your fingers if it twisted in the scrubbing motion. Happy days.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Mashed Herring in masala paste with new potatoes and greens.

I purchased three herring from our Tesco counter because they are very cheap at the moment. Roughly about £1.80 for the three. At the time of purchase I had no idea what I planned to do with them. I was just inspired by the fact that I had never cooked herring before.

As it turned out I gutted them and scored the skin so that I could introduce a nice spicy masala sauce (half a jar sitting in the fridge) into the flesh. I popped the masala spread fish into the oven at about 150 degrees for about three quarters of an hour. One of the fish (in preparation) lost its spine so I decided to fillet the lot and in so doing had a lot less bone to fanny about with on eating.

I put on some new potatoes and let boil until tender. In a separate pan I steamed some greens and crisp and salty samphire. The cooked and curried herring was mashed with some crème fraiche for a creamy fishy mash.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling with a glass of chilled white wine.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Stuffed whole rainbow trout cooked in butter

Well I say 'stuffed' in the title above. I'd say more like a mixture of chopped green ends of a bunch of spring onions, chopped mushrooms and flaked almonds all pushed into cleaned gut cavity. I do like my fish whole whenever possible and especially the trout. I first came across trout way back in the 1980s and I had started to visit Germany for holidays. There it is known as die Forella and eating out on my own, often at lunchtime in half empty restaurants on the Rhine and Mosel (not both at the same time) I took a shine to this beautiful river fish and its earthy taste and succulent orangey-pink flesh.

So yesterday I fished one bought a week ago from Tesco out of the freezer and left it in a bath of cold water to defrost. Once restored to death I scored the flesh three or four times to slip in some butter and pushed the chopped ingredients into the fish's belly. When all was in place I gave it a good blast of black pepper and popped it in the oven for three quarters of an hour on gas mark six.

In the meantime I boiled a few new potatoes and when all was ready added a few tasty capers to the plate and Bob's your trout!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A delicious Mackerel Pate recipe

As spoken about in the last blog post I cooked several mackerel fillets on the bbq to achieve a smoky flavour in order to make some mackerel pate. Whilst the finished result isn't precisely Smoked Mackerel Pate it tastes very very similar.

For three cooked/smoked mackerel fillets a recipe I found on t'internet suggested adding 300g of Philadelphia Cream Cheese plus one teaspoon of horseradish sauce and the juice of one lemon then blitzing the whole lot in a food blender. That is it!

Well, at the moment I don't have a food blender so I resorted to old fashioned methods by pulverizing the mixture with a potato masher and finishing the job by pushing down on the semi- soft mixture with the back of a dessert spoon. The result was fishy heaven with a tasty level of extra sharpness achieved through the acidity of the lemon juice and hot horseradish sauce. In the end I found I had made far too much for myself and gave away two bowls full to my neighbours Jo and Betty.

With grated lemon peel and a blackberry as decoration.