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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Are you a food snob?

I have acquaintances in Newark On Trent who claim to shop for their weekly food shop exclusively at Waitrose.This is a mum, dad and twenty year old daughter. Periodically, I have seen them shop and they are relatively wealthy but their food bill (and alcohol bill) at each shopping experience comes to £300 plus! That's approx £1200 per month! More than I earn. They are very brand driven and will pay through the nose for any product that claims to be Organic or made by dis-enfranchised, Sting loving pygmies from the high forests of the Philippines or  the Vale of Evesham on a wet Wednesday.

They won't even buy Waitrose's own brand sausages and seem to prefer isolated croft - hand knitted - sausages from some 'special' range that shows pretty pictures of deliriously happy pigs in sepia. They would not be seen dead buying (name your supermarket)'s cheaper ranges from one of the popular stores and have an impulse to go for the perceived 'best' even though it may cost them three or four times as much. I would love to be a fly on the proverbial wall one day when/if the income dramatically decreased and such extravagences were no longer viable.

Listening to a local radio programme the other day they often quoted parents who felt 'obliged' to buy brand name biscuits or chocolate for their kids pack up because otherwise the other kids at school would tease them or even actively bully them for not having the same brands as the majority.

I don't earn very much really and still revel in the fact I can still enjoy good quality food, often taking advantage of half price offers or stretching my meals by bulk cooking. I also try not to waste food and freeze items for future use. Often my greatest pleasure is coming away from a store (supermarket or individual independent shop) with a bulging bag full of food goodies that really hasn't cost me a lot and being creative with them. I don't care about the brands. What about you? Are you a food snob sometimes?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Trout in paper? Truite en papillote?

Trout in cooked in paper with fennel and lemon? Yum. Well that was the starting point. Then I got concerned that the baking paper would catch fire 'doncso I abandoned ( French abandonnez) le project de cuisine and decided to do my own thing, whatever that would turn out to be. Something easy I thought - tasty and easy.

So I bought three stiff fresh rainbow trout from the fish counter at work and gutted, de gilled, cleaned and washed them myself. They are on offer at the moment so the cost was cheaper than normal. I also got some free butters with the fish and my choice was garlic and pepper butter. Even the words hot butter and pepper combined make me salivate!

Once home I poured myself a glass of wine. Yes I know it is red and white would normally go with fish but I wanted red so that is what got poured. Comprendez?

So - a quick meal - ready within an hour- all made on the hoof - as you English say. Cow obsessives! No wonder we call you Les Rosbifs! Une blague! Calmez vous!

Wash fish and put two in the freezer for another day.

Chop flat leaved parsley and make a parcel and insert into fish gut cavity along with the butter. Wrap up in silver foil parcel if wimpish about paper parcels. Cook on medium heat for half an hour, baste with peppered butter and leave foil open for the trout to brown and finish cooking for ten minutes.If you want particulars - Gas Mark 6 or 150 Electric.

Now at this point I thought along these lines: Could I be bothered cooking couscous/rice/new potatoes/ pasta to go with the fish? Non!!! Pas du tout!  I was tired so I looked in the fridge and low and behold some lovely on the vine tomatoes and mozzarella became quickly sliced and arranged made the dish perfect. Et Voila! C'est tout!

This simple and very tasty meal was just what I needed and one I would happily cook again or create a similar dish based on a cooked trout. Maybe next time I will even brave the paper cooked version!

Monday, 10 September 2012

In honour of Di - my mysterious lady friend.

A good friend has passed away.

I’m a bit sad at the moment as my good friend Di has passed away. She would say herself that she was, admittedly, an expensive lady but her unusual beauty and popularity always surpassed such silly monetary concerns.

She had a very special place in my heart and for those who know me and have never heard me speak of Di I’m sorry. Di was a very private lady, almost closeted, and we shared some intimate moments where she did her best to please me and I …. I’m sorry I’m welling up. Such friendships aren’t easy to discuss especially when her death came so suddenly. Perhaps it’s me… I didn’t always treat her as I should.
Maybe I can recall the happier times we had together, Di and I.

We would cavort together in every room of the house, even on the stairs. The bedroom was a popular spot with her and she could be dirty, even going under the bed on occasion. Personally, I always found it a bit cramped under there among the boxes and cat hairs, but she liked it. I could tell from the throaty noises she used to make that she was having fun. I’d have to say that her performance was exceptional and she had sisters who could also do what she did. Well, she was a model and they were too.

Di was with me for ten years and I remember the day she arrived and we first met. I couldn’t wait to examine her parts and got her going straight away. She adored my living room and we danced together at least twice a week in the early days.” Our special dance” we called it. Back and forth, Forth and back with an occasional backwards spin or flourish. Occasionally she’d  get a bit wayward and passionately try to grab hold of one of the throws on the settee and I would laugh and tug her away. We'd dance some more then she'd rest while I cooked in the kitchen. Despite her energy she was never very hungry. Oh the memories.

Then of late I knew something was wrong. Twice recently, in our favourite spot, the bedroom, she’d play up and be temperamental. I tried everything, and thought I was pushing the right buttons but little would persuade her to be happy. Then last week, I couldn’t wake her, there was no electricity between us, no spark. Gulp.

Goodbye Di the Dyson – the best cleaner I ever had. We shared some fine moments together. Sniff. I'll miss you. Blub blub. The carpets send their love.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Spanish style chicken stew and trimming my bush.

I've had a few days off work on holiday this weekend and as money is very tight at the mo I have just been enjoying being at home and doing a few bits and bobs that I normally wouldn't have the time to do. Most of this has been in the kitchen including concocting a Spanish chicken stew from a few ingrediants from the cupboard and some bought in. First of all I marinated chicken pieces in garlic and cayenne pepper and left it overnight in the fridge, to blend. With the bones from the original whole chicken I made a proper chicken stock, again left in the fridge to use the following day. I was surprised to find that it had turned into a sort of chicken stock jelly and when I got round to making the stew I had to blitz it in the food mixer to get it more liquid.

The Spanish style stew was made from celery, carrots, butter beans, chorizo, the cooked chicken and the chicken stock with a little added paprika and black pepper. To accompany this I made some of my fave hot potatoes, patatas bravas. I make this simply by making small roast potatoes, pouring away the oil and briefly warming through with the patatas bravas sauce.

I make the sauce from two tins of chopped tomatoes reduced down on the stove top and I add plenty of garlic and a sprinkling of hot ground paprika and stir well. The sauce gets added to the now roast potatoes and left in the oven for about fifteen minutes to cook through. Too much longer and it can dry out.

Some fresh figs and some delicious mint leaves and chocolate ice cream made a cooling and tasty dessert.

I only have a small garden, most of which is covered in lavender bushes and around this time of the year it becomes time to harvest the already drying flowers and to generally trim my bushes so that they can grow and bloom again in nine months time and fill the air with their fragrance on hot days.

My friend Rebecca (mentioned in the last blogpost) recently gave me some plums which smelt wonderfully alcoholic as I  took them from their bag and shortly afterwards I made them into a super plum crumble. I love the Summer for such fruits and such nice gestures. Thank you again Rebecca. As a return 'thank you' I intend to give her the dried lavender when it is completely dry from hanging in my kitchen window.
Lastly, I purchased (very cheaply) Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's book, 'Three Good Things on a plate', recently and hope to get some inspiration from this for some tasty, nutritious dishes at low cost and maybe set me off in a new creative direction.