Friday, 13 January 2012

what a week!

I can’t believe how quickly this week has gone. There I was getting right back into the swing of the blog and before I know it, it’s Friday again. So here I am, G&T in hand, wondering what to blog about.

Perhaps, most importantly, I should say that the Husband has made me 2 lovely shelves in the kitchen so now my recipe books are where they should be and not in the study, to be carted back and forth. One shelf has my favourite books on it and the other, I couldn’t resist, has the remains of my Granny (she of the lovely biscuit tin)’s old coffee set and some nice jugs that I have collected. The ‘display’ shelf is lovely – secretly, and very occasionally, I fantasise about having one of those kitchens where the home owner’s ‘lovely things’ are out on display, apparently full time, and there is never any clutter. When we had the kitchen ‘done’ a couple of years ago, I did promise faithfully that the top of the dresser, which is something we inherited with the house – would be clear of clutter and everything would be put away, but inevitably, it was not to be. I once had a (male) friend whose parents kept such a kitchen – clear worktops apart from a beautiful dualit kettle, and some minimalist white crockery artfully placed.  I remember him taking me home later on one evening to my parents’ house, and remarking how he was glad to see someone else’s kitchen was a mess – I didn’t spoil the illusion, but in fact the kitchen was, at that precise moment probably as tidy as I had ever seen . But I digress. I am now the proud owner of some lovely shelves, and it gives me a little thrill of satisfaction to see Hugh, Nigella and friends all nestled up together, casting their collective watchful eye over proceedings.

Maybe it’s their presence in the kitchen that has inspired me this week, but it does seem to have been one where I have particularly enjoyed cooking.

Last Saturday, looking for something to cook for a Sunday lunch, I retrieved a cut of lamb from the freezer. We got a jointed lamb last year – jointed but unlabeled. Having slowly worked our way through the more identifiable pieces of meat, there are now 3 or 4 pot luck lumps, so feeling brave, I decided to go for it. Given that I wasn’t quite sure what joint it was, the Husband and I decided that the best approach would be the slow roast, so when I got up on Sunday morning I did the HFW merguez spice mix that’s in River Cottage Everyday, slapped it on the meat, sizzled it in a hot oven for 30 mins then turned it right down and left to do its thang. We headed off to the allotment for a morning of digging and came back for lunch, by which time the meat was really lovely, with loads of juice (you chuck in a couple of glasses of water during the cooking time). It really is a fantastic way to cook lamb.

There wasn’t much left over of the lamb, so the kids had to have fish fingers and chips for tea on Monday – in the interests of eating out of the freezer, which was one of my stated aims for January (“Are they chips from the shop, mummy, or your ones?” “From the shop” “Hooray!! Shop bought chips!!” – the children are easily pleased) – and the Husband and I had a variation on my favourite leftover chicken recipe which is basically couscous baked in the oven with cold cooked chicken, couscous, tomatoes and peas and a spicy stock. In the absence of any of those ingredients, apart from couscous, I managed to use up the left over lamb along with the olives and artichoke heart (tinned I’m afraid) we’d used on Saturday night’s pizza, and some feta that had been languishing at the back of the fridge. I used the left over juice from the joint mixed in with some lamb stock to make the cooking liquor and bingo. There was even enough left for the Husband to have for his lunch on Tuesday, although I’m not sure he was as thrilled about that as I was.

On Monday, I also decided that I needed to see if Dan’s ‘farmhouse tin’ would stand up to the double batch treatment. It did. Need I say more.

On Tuesday, in the interests of eating less meat, and having found a jar of korma sauce in the cupboard, left over from the camper van last summer and needing eating up, I bit the bullet and made cauliflower korma and flatbreads for supper. Blue doesn’t like cauli much but does like curry, Pink vice versa, and the result was a surprising success. I literally fried an onion, and steamed the cauli before adding it along with the jar of sauce and cooking it. I used HFW’s magic bread dough – the one with plain flour in from Veg... that I used for pizza on Saturday, and blow me down, if it doesn’t make fab flatbread too. I got a bit enthusiastic and started off letting the kids roll out the individual flatbreads before I cooked them, but that was a mistake – it was late and I was tired. Tempers were frayed (mostly mine) so I decided that in the interest of their life expectancy, I had better finish it off myself, but the results were great.

We’ve eaten meat the rest of the week (although only a little chicken in fajitas – mostly red pepper, and yes, we used bought wraps – on Wednesday) but tomorrow, spurred on by the success of Tuesday’s curry, we are going to have a curry feast out of Veg. We will have flatbreads, and I will be good mummy and let the kids roll out as many flatbreads as they wish. I will not get grouchy and mean when they cover themselves and the kitchen in flour. We will be the very image of domestic bliss.

Finally, I made Dan’s alchemist chocolate cake this evening, the one with no butter, and only a little oil, and which uses a kind of pear/cocoa emulsion to bind it all together. So far so good – the mixture tasted scrummy, but I’m thinking that perhaps substitution 2 large eggs for the stated 3 medium eggs might have been an error as it’s looking rather flat. Still, I’m sure once I’ve drizzled some melted chocolate over it, flatness will be last thing on my mind...

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