Amazon Kindle Store

Friday, 31 July 2015

Using up some of the freezer stuff

As I wrote in the last blog post I intend using up some (and eventually all) of the trays of food in my freezer compartment. So as Harris the cat laying snoozing and dreaming of birds on Tuesday I used up some Merguez lamb sausage and a tray of the spaghetti bolognaise that I had left to defrost.

The sauce was a little dry so I added a tin of Tesco Value chopped tomatoes and ended up with a mix that would actually cover a couple of meals. The fragrant sausages didn't take long to cook and instead of rice or pasta I cut into a fresh loaf of olive bread brought from the village bakery.

A little bit of fresh basil tossed on top and the meal was done and felt almost as if it were free. Just for a little sharp taste I spooned on a generous spoonful of chilli and tomato chutney. I like this saving money lark!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Braving the depths of the freezer.

A cat (Mr Harris) sitting next to my laptop is not always conducive to writing as he likes to soak up the tiny amount of heat from the laptop engine and he occasionally walks across teh key borad the key board. This action can cause porbelms pawblems problems as he has no idea how to type. If he did I would simply dictate to him as if he were a talented feline typist. He would be especially good at the words food, snooze, fuss, purr and scratch.

"But I like it here! It's cosy!"

So cute cat aside and he is indeed aside me as I type. For something to occupy myself today, I cleared out the freezer portion of my fridge freezer. Like most people I keep on buying food and, invariably, if I make too much of something I freeze it as I don't like waste. Once in a while I will check the freezer and pull out something to defrost for my tea when I get home. A lot of the time I forget and buy something fresh. Worth checking out the always helpful LOVE FOOD HATE WASTE site.

Determined to save a bit of money and one day be able to get easily into the freezer without the aide of crampons and a team of ravenous Eskimos to help salvage the frozen food, I pulled out all the contents and wrote down what was there and took this picture.

There was a surprising amount of stuff one item even went back as far as 2013. I wouldn't have been surprised to find a portion of woolly mammoth in there! The contents were mostly in silver trays with the items and dates hand written on top for easy reference:

The contents of my freezer today.

Home made Spaghetti Bolognaise x three. April 2015

One box of cod fillets unopened.

Two uncooked chicken legs and two wings laid out like frozen fowl body parts.

One tray of home made Spag Bol with chilli. June 2014

One home made Saag curry - no date. Possibly chicken and very likely spinach.

One box of Black Forest Fruits unopened and bought on a whim in May when the sun happened to shining.

Four Co-Op pork chops wrapped separately for easy division.

One tray of mackerel fillets from Tesco.

Four six ounce beef burgers from Tesco when on a half price special offer.

One plastic container of home made courgette tian.

Small tub of chopped chives.

Two trays of kohlrabi from a time when I got a free vegetable box to sample.

Two trays of Italian bread for toasting (one day soon)

One tray of blackberries (originally picked fresh from an actual bush near a roadside) from August 2013. A very good year for blackberries and bramble cuts on my over eager fingers!

One small plastic bag of lamb sausage from the local butcher.

One remaining chocolate ice lolly. I use the word 'remaining' because I have a current obsession for ice lollies!

One unopened bag of French beans.

Well, having listed them all on a pad and now on here I now have a very accurate idea of what I have available to eat if only I make the effort to get things out to defrost! My neighbour's cat Harris has now moved to a warmer spot by the window and the key board is safe for the moment!

By the way folks the only thing I found in the freezer that I decided to throw away was a battered old ice cream carton with a dozen bits of freezer burnt chopped raw celery in.

My friend Karen just commented on this blog post on facebook. I feel I am not alone! She is so funny. Here is what she said.

“My freezer is full to bursting, mainly with lots of fresh fish I bought online (they accidentally sent me part of someone else's order too - so I struggled to fit it all in. On the plus side I got the extra free and have enough fish for months. I've also got home-made bread and cakes and ice cream in there.

When I defrosted it last month I found two packets of beef skirt I'd got from a Farmer's Market in 2013! Not wanting to waste it I added some curry sauce and cooked it in the slow cooker for hours and it was delicious. I also found several packets of venison from 2013/2014 which I still keep forgetting to use. Freezers can be both a blessing and a curse I find as I often take out meat to defrost and end up buying fresh.”

Me and Mr Harris the cat would love to hear your freezer contents experiences so please feel free to comment.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Did you want duck duck?

Opposite our meat and fish counter at Tesco is isle number twenty, a place many of our customers chose their meat from to cook and some of the pre-packed fish items too. Of course there are some things over there that we don't sell on either of our counters and one of those things are duck items. Often we get asked for the Gressingham Duck products and we are always happy to show the customers where they are.

As "Duck" is a popular term of affection in the East Midlands i.e "Ey up me Duck" (hello) I suppose it can confuse some of our not so local enquiring customers when we may reply "Duck, duck? Just down here duck. There you go duck. On the top shelf duck. Can I help you with anything else duck?"

The cooking instructions are simple enough. Take out of packaging. Pat dry with a paper towel. Rub skin (the duck skin not your own skin duck) dry and rub in salt and pepper to flavour. Cook the duck legs at gas mark four for ninety minutes duck. I found that I drained the duck fat off a few times during the cooking and basted the legs with their own fat. The finished result made the legs very crispy and moist. Although they take a fair amount of time longer than chicken legs to cook they are definitely worth the wait. It is also worth your while giving them a ten minutes resting time after cooking. I put them in a bowl and some tin foil over to keep them semi-warm.

To accompany the duck I made some patatas bravas and added three small fried red onions and a few bulbs of garlic into the final sauce and I shelled a bag full of fresh peas and rather greedily ate half of them raw before they had even gone anywhere near a saucepan.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Three nations sausage casserole. And they say men can't multi - task.

How about this then. Saturday afternoon I cleaned the bottom portion of my house (kitchen and front room) and made a three nation sausage casserole. You may not have heard of a three nation casserole and that is because I made up the title after an attempt to use up some sausage items in my fridge. The majority of the sausages were Black Farmer English sausages, plain pork but very meaty. The second sausage was half a chorizo ring sliced and the third was a newly discovered smoked sausage. It was newly discovered even though it had been in my fridge since May 2015. The newly discovered aspect was that it should have been used in May! Regardless I added it into the sausage casserole mix on the final part of the cooking process. It was after all a cooked garlic sausage from Poland called Kielbasa czosnkowa and despite the months old use by date it still looked OK as I took it out of its packaging. Well there was no mould and the name was sure to play havoc with my computer spell checker or is that spell 'chzechor'?

In case you are wondering the fridge freezer is under my staircase alongside a dry foods storage space and below that a hoover and some shoes and fluff.

In my casseroles I always use Tesco's Everyday Value plum or chopped tomatoes. For such a reasonably priced item they always taste delicious and are really economical or ecumenical as my spell chzeckor wants to get religiously correct. Bless it. I say tomato you say tomato.

I used a new style sausage casserole mix brought from Tesco some while ago to add even more onion flavour to the mix. The red onions themselves were on reduction at my local Co-Op store at only 39p for six. Three of them sacrificed themselves, had their skin ripped off and were slaughtered and cooked for my casserole.

I made my usual Patatas Bravas as a fiery roast potato ingredient but this time I reduced the sauce to a thicker consistency before adding it to the fat drained roasties. The resultant Patatas Bravas only took ten minutes in the oven to finish and the sauce had gone pretty intensely dry by the time I took the dish out of the oven. There is enough sausage casserole left for at least another three days.

Now perhaps it is time to tackle the bathroom and bedroom! Maybe tomorrow.

Thank God he has put that noisy hoover away.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Krautwickel - stuffed cabbage leaves from Germany

I was chatting with my lovely German friend and actress Lena on facebook last night and towards the end of a very pleasant chat she told me she would have to go as she was cooking Krautwickel for her boyfriend and herself. I had never heard of this and asked her to send me some photos of her finished dish. She said it may not look very exciting but it tastes delicious.

I found this very good recipe for the stuffed cabbage leaves on a German foods site in English. I must give it a try sometime. Thanks Lena x

Check out my former post on sauerkraut in Karlsruhe too.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Pig cheeks for tea from Tesco's Finest range.

This evening I gave Tesco's Finest slow cooked pig cheeks a try and as the majority of the cooking was already done for me before I even opened the box it made for a very nice evening meal coupled with an inventive mash created by myself.

The pork came from outdoor reared pigs just the same as the pork products on the meat counter and was described thus on the packaging: Rubbed in a classic Italian blend or fennel seeds, rosemary, sage and thyme and cooked for five hours until the meat is melt in the mouth tender.

The cooking instructions were simple enough: cook for thirty-five minutes in a medium heat oven. The cheeks come with a cooking tray and need taking out of their pouch and cooking for twenty-five minutes. Then they need taking out of the oven and the cooking juices disposed of and then red wine sauce (included) added and cooked for a further ten minutes. I haven't got a microwave but the instructions say that the product isn't suitable to microwave or freeze.

In the interim I made a potato and celery mash and steamed some spinach which I added to the cooked potatoes and celery and mashed all the veg together with a little butter. The box even comes with a wine suggestion and I went the whole hog (yes that was a poor pig joke) and purchased the wine as well. The Tesco's Finest Nero D'Avola red wine from Sicily was just perfect with the meal.

The resultant cooked pig cheeks were extremely tender and fell apart under my fork. They tasted marginally richer than your average pork product and that aspect greatly appealed to me. The herbs and spices used in the original marinade and cooking lent the meat a subtle flavour and juiciness. The red wine sauce provided gave the whole meal a finishing touch. Instead of a mustard accompaniment I added a spoon of Tesco redcurrant jelly to the plate.


Rope grown live mussels from Tesco. Delicious!

For a treat I love to cook myself a bag of mussels. I prefer them very fresh and love the moment when, in my occasional fishmonger role, on the busy set up of the elaborate Tesco fish counter, I get to open a new sealed tub of Scottish rope grown mussels! That early morning seaside ozone aroma lustfully emanating from the rectangular plastic tub is almost as intoxicating as opening a sealed bag of smoked fish. I love it! So, dear readers, at the back end of last week I treated myself to a whole kilo bag and skipped happily through the store after work as I chose a nice sharp fresh white wine (an Italian Soave from Tesco's Simply wine range) to cook with and to imbibe. Well actually, I will be honest and say, two bottles because really, a couple of small glasses are barely enough to make the evening of foodie delights go with a zing, are they!?

chopped coriander stalks and leaves with garlic

The mussels were very very tasty and much tastier and plumper than those I had in Bordeaux in June. I was fascinated by the pure white barnacles on a few of the shells too and started to imagine the life they must have had in the clear waters attached to the bouchottes, as we love to say in France.

Barnacles on a few of the mussels

Me busy in the kitchen still in my Tesco outfit!
I already had organic garlic bulbs and some coriander at home and chose a fresh short French style baguette hot from the Tesco bakery to eat with the mussels and dip into the unctuous (never get tired of that unctuous word) deeply flavoursome juices that collect during the short cooking period of the mussels.

I finely chopped five or six garlic bulbs (the wine helps me forget the actual amount but the after morning breath doesn't and is certainly less forgiving!) with some coriander stalks to gently warm through in Filippo Berio olive oil before adding the cleaned and moisture drained mussels. Yes I know that Extra Virgin shouldn't really be used for cooking but it is soooo tasty, very slightly resonant of pepper (a little tender warming hit on the back palate) and the richest and warmest of olive oil flavours!

The time consuming bit is cleaning the mussels by pulling off the beards and discarding the very few broken shells. From a whole greedy kilo I only found four broken shells. Actually the cleaning process can be equally as satisfying as shelling peas into a colander with your lovable whiskery granny. Do kids still do that these days? The satisfaction can't possibly be the same from emptying a solid glob of frozen peas into a colander to defrost - surely? Anyway- moving on...

Another blast from the past was instigated by me deciding to cut a lemon in the way that I was encouraged to cut a tomato for grilling in the extremely limited cookery lessons us young teenage boys had in the 1970s at school. Actual tomatoes (btw no actual 'on the vine' tomatoes were harmed in the process about to be described) were de-seeded by myself, sliced and added to the cooking mussels as well as a good fistful of coriander leaves. Traditionally the herb would be flat leaved parsley but I like to ring the changes as I also did by throwing in a pinch of nutty caraway seeds to a touch of something extra to the final taste.

Just look at that plump mussel!!! Yum!

Yesterday, a Sunday, a handsome young couple purchased some fresh mussels from me at the Tesco fish counter and the chap called them moules. Therefore I presumed he was either French or Belgian. Turned out he was of Russian linage. What a fascinating world of culinary diverse nationalities we meet at Tesco! Bon appetite!
For fans of Mr Harris the cat I would add that, in his fussy cat way, he wasn't so impressed by cooked seafood as he was by chorizo some while back and sat sulking by the back door as I got even  more excited and anticipatory about my evening treat of Scottish rope grown mussels! He did look cute albeit a little disgruntled, sat by the flowers though!
Photos and text by Phil Lowe

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Let's Get Fishy! Sprats, rainbow trout and swordfish steak.

As the lavender in my garden seems to get more intensely purple with each downpour of rain followed by the most intense sunny spells so my cooking turns towards lighter summery foods and fish in particular. Part of my job is working on a supermarket fish counter so why not. I like to pass on my successes to my customers as well.

Over the last few days I have cooked and enjoyed tiny salty fried sprats, a rainbow trout cooked in peppery rounds of butter and today a slice of creamy swordfish steak simply cooked with minted new potatoes and frozen peas. The mint came fresh from garden but tends to go yellow quite quickly so I catch it whilst young and fresh.

The sprats were tiny and my first time advice would be: buy them new caught when they are stiff fresh. To prepare you just need a small sharp knife to remove the heads and preferably a sharp pair of scissors to cut into the belly and your fingers only to put out the guts. The usage of the scissors helps to create a clean cut and doesn't tear the fish skin as much as a knife might. They take about ten minutes to fry. I had mine with patatas bravas and some spare lettuce leaves and black olives. I was so hungry by the time the patatas bravas were finally done that I practically threw the lot into and bowl and gorged myself. I have an abundance of basil leaves at the moment. The plant on the windowsill just keeps on growing so a few fragrant leaves seem to grace practically every meal I have right now!

Fried sprats and patatas bravas and salad

Yesterday I cooked a whole rainbow trout on offer at Tesco for only £2 each. I cleaned it at work. Well why make a mess in your own kitchen when you can take out the guts and gills cleanly at work? See, dear reader, you don't get this kind of choice working in an office!

 "I say, could you just fax over this document and de-scale and gut a sea bass for me while you are at it please George?" I think not.

This was cooked in free rings of butter and I made up a kind of stuffing (which ended up in a separate bowl) from a mix of finely chopped garlic bulbs, crushed pistachio nuts, Chopped and de-seeded on the vine tomatoes, a bag of steamed spinach with a raw egg and bread crumbs to bind it. I just kind of  made it up as I went along with things I happened to have in the house at the time.

The finished (and if I may say so) most delicious rainbow trout and spinach and pistachio stuffing I have ever cooked! One average sized trout is just enough for one person and the cooked flesh pulls easily from the bone and has a slightly earthy taste. The butter helps to keep it moist. Cooking time is approx three quarters of an hour on a medium heat 160 electric of gas mark 6.


Finally, this afternoon I made my friend Nicola drool over some internet chat as I told her I was cooking a swordfish steak and new potatoes and peas. I have never had swordfish before and although on the pricey side it certainly was scrummy with a creamy mouth feel. It worked well with the simple additions of the potatoes and peas and fresh with leaves from the cottage garden.

Peas upon the fish cookers for they shall inherit the washing up.