Rainy Day Cooking – Tomato and Courgette Loaf with Tomato Chutney

Raining again, so no gardening for me today. I’d put aside a recipe that had caught my eye in the weekend Guardian. Tomato and courgette loaf with tomato chutney, “well that sounds delicious” I thought, perhaps I should give it a go. As luck would have it, I had a couple of manky/well-matured courgettes lurking in the nether regions of the fridge, just waiting for an opportunity to shine. Even better I had a fair few of the other ingredients. I decided not to attempt the chutney this time, considering it best to concentrate on the loaf and hopefully, with a prevailing wind at my stern (no sniggering in the cheap seats Mr K) my creation would be ready by lunchtime. Delayed slightly, but also buoyed-up, by a re-run of Star Trek “The Next Generation”, I boldly went where no cook had gone before. In our kitchen anyway.

As always, the recipe, or approximation of, will appear in normal text, my interpretation is in italics.

Tomato and Courgette Loaf (sans tomato chutney)

First make the chutney…..

Not doing that so blah, blah, blah, skim and skip straight to ……

Heat the oven to gas mark 6, something about preparing your loaf tin.

Turn oven on, as so nicely requested, oil loaf tin.

Put grated courgettes and half a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and steep for 20 minutes.

Grated? Sounds like hard work. I’ll grate them in the food processor and then I can give it a cursory wipe it out and use it for the cheese later. Please note that I was reading ahead, as all good cooks should do when attempting a new recipe. Courgies duly grated (no not corgies, rest assured no royal dogs were harmed making this loaf) and set to steep. Ponder on “steep” for a moment, consider it a rather wonderful word. Say it out loud a few times.

Mix flour, baking powder, bicarb, garam masala, caster sugar and salt in a large bowl.

All easy except for the perennial wrong sugar problem, used demerara which of course wouldn’t go through the sieve so just tipped it in the bowl and stirred it around a bit. Not sure why we need sugar in a savoury recipe, but it seems to happen a lot these days. Of course, I could just leave it out, but I am by nature a follower of rules (again, quiet back there!).

In another bowl, whisk eggs oil and yoghurt, grated cheddar and coriander.

As I didn’t have Greek yoghurt, I used soya yoghurt. To my mind, one word in common is good enough. Although sometimes it is less than one. This often ends messily. Best not dwell that. All whisked to perfection.

Tip steeped courgettes into a clean tea towel and wring out as much liquid as possible.

Tipped steeped courgettes half onto the tea towel (clean) and half onto work surface (cleanish). Scoop wayward gratings to where they belong and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze murky green liquid into the sink. Quite satisfying.

Stir the courgettes and egg mixture into the dry ingredients and 150g of the reserved chutney.


I said……

I heard you! It seems I needed the chutney after all. Too late now, what to do? What is red and a bit liquidy? I know, red pesto! It might work. I know, there are absolutely no words in common with tomato chutney, but at least it is a similar colour. And it is all I’ve got. Stir all the stuff together with a jar of red pesto and hope for the best.

Transfer to the lined loaf tin and arrange halved red and yellow cherry tomatoes on the top.

Lined? When did you say that? Oh yes, I see. Quickly line tin, carefully spoon in mixture and arrange cherry tomatoes prettily on top. I only have red, but that is definitely acceptable. Compared to other “adjustments” it is small beer. Place in oven.

Drizzle the loaf with the final tablespoon of oil and bake for 40 minutes.

Take loaf out of the oven and drizzle with oil. Put back in. Set grumpy cat timer.

Cover with foil, lower temperature to gas 5 and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Easy peasy, except the skewer bit, so I use a knife. Bit wobbly, put it back in for another 5 minutes. That will do. Probably.

Leave to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes.

What, you have got to be joking?!!!!

Naturally I did wait, restraint is my middle name, and very nice it was too. We ate warm slices of the loaf with label-free homemade soup from the freezer, most likely tomato and carrot, and our cockles were warmed.

More Rain and Banana Bread

Rain yet again stopped play today.  I tried very hard to be a brave little bunny.  After sloshing around in my waterproofs for a short while, it was obvious to all but a fool that it was too wet to continue.  All I was making was mud pies and myself miserable.

Home and dried, I wondered what was to be done on such a day?  And then my eagle eyes honed in on some well-tanned bananas in the fruit bowl.  And I thought about banana bread.  Which is strange because I haven’t made banana bread for at least 30 years.  I rarely bake, I am not a fan of sweet things, I don’t often eat bananas.  I am not sure what came over me.  After a short rummage, I found the above recipe.  It is quite peculiar coming across your own handwriting from years ago, looking directly at your younger self.  I smiled to see that I started out with my best handwriting and as it progressed I became more slapdash.  Mistakes, amendments, rushing to finish.  A familiar tale.  The recipe is one I first used as a teenager, pleasingly splattered and smudged with memories of past efforts.  It was strangely comforting to think of it.  Why not?  I thought.  Let’s give it a go for old times’ sake.

As usual, I will carefully guide you through the recipe, with the reality in italics:

  1.  Oven 190C, Mark 5. Minimal information young Gill, I imagine this means I should turn the oven on to that temperature.  Evidence indeed that all those episodes of Bake Off were indeed educational.
  2.  Mash bananas with lemon juice.  Chop walnuts.  Sift baking powder and flour.  The recipe calls for 3 small bananas but mine are rather large, will chuck them all in, the more nana the better!  To compensate for excessive banana use I added a bit more lemon juice.  Chuckle at my correction on the sheet.  We don’t have any walnuts but we do have some mixed nuts, so chop those instead.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until creamy, beat in eggs.  Type of sugar not specified but as we only have light muscavado decide this is the perfect choice.  Butter rock hard, try to soften on the radiator but get bored very quickly.  Try with electric hand mixer.  Carnage.  Tidy up.  Decide on “ye olde” wooden spoon method.  Blimey, forgotten how hard that is.  Smells delicious.  Time passes.  Decide that is creamy enough.  The eggs are large, hope that is OK.  I’ve gone too far now to let a small matter like that trip me up.  Beat in eggs with spoon.  Looks disgusting.  Decide to try electric hand mixer again.  Mini-carnage, then all well.  Looks much better.
  4. Stir in bananas. Easy peasy although it does seem like quite a lot.  No matter, it will make it particularly moist.
  5. Fold in flour and walnuts. Forgot to sift flour earlier so do it straight into the mix, saves on the washing up as I don’t have my slave/little brother to clear up for me anymore.   Perform a highly professional fold in, though I say it myself.
  6. Bake for 1 hour.  Although not mentioned, I presume that I then transfer the mix to the buttered bread tin.  Again thank you Bake Off.  Worry slightly that there is too much batter and it will overflow.  As I am past caring I just pop the tin on a tray so in case of spillage it won’t mess the oven up too much.  I am such a grown up these days.  Set grumpy cat time for 1 hour and wait.

Me:  The excitement is too much; I think I will take a peek.

Inner Dialogue:  No you will spoil it.

Me:  But what if its burning?

Inner Dialogue:  You would smell it if its burning, take a chill pill baby.

Me:  If you are you quite sure.

*grumpy cat bell rings, rushes to oven*

Me:  You told me it wouldn’t burn, that I would smell it!  Why do I continue to listen to your advice?  Anyone with any sense would have stopped paying attention to the rubbish you come out with years ago!

Inner dialogue:  Stop fussing, it is known as “charred” not burnt.  All the top restaurants are doing it these days.  In fact Mary Berry has a new book out called Singe.

Me:  Or I could just cut the black bits off and no one will ever know.

Inner dialogue:  Good plan.

*OH walks into kitchen*

OH:  It’s a bit burnt!

Me:  It’s called charred.

OH:  OK, shall we have a piece?

OH:  Delicious, I could eat it every day!

Me:  Another happy ending.



Lemon No-Bake Cheesecake

Lemon cheesecake

After seriously considering Mr K’s suggestion to get a new OH after the incident last weekend, I have decided to give the old one another chance.  At this very moment he is constructing a new diddy plastic greenhouse and dismantling the vandalised one.  Off he skipped with a smile on his face and a hammer in his hand.

To reward him for his efforts I thought I would make my signature pudding, ie my only pudding, a cheesecake.  It is from the wonderful The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook by Charlotte Pike.  We are neither students nor vegetarians, but we are often hungry and this recipe always works out well.  You could call it foolproof.  It is also easy to make and delicious.  Perfect.   You can customise to taste,  add other flavourings, arrange fruit artfully on the top or even throughout, as is your wont.  It is unlikely that any of these creative adaptions will happen in this house, but stranger things have happened.  As usual an approximation of Ms Pike’s instructions are in normal font, my interpretations are in italic.

Lemon No-Bake Cheesecake

Lightly grease a 20cm springform cake tin

I rummaged in the “cooking ephemeral that seldom gets used” cupboard and found that I did indeed have a 20cm springform cake tin.  A Christmas miracle in itself.  It was a bit cobwebby, so I gave it a good wash.  I then attempted to put it back together.  The bottom kept falling out.  I must be doing something wrong.  Time passes.  It must be broken.  OH walks past with a sledgehammer ” the tin ring is upside down”.  Doh!  Grease the tin.  Add butter to shopping list.

Place twelve digestives in plastic bag and smash to crumbs with a rolling-pin and transfer into a bowl.

As thirteen is our lucky number and we like a nice thick base I chucked in another one for good luck.  You can’t be mean with cheesecake.  Check whether Stealth Postie has been yet.  OH asks if I know where the pile driver is.

Melt 80g of butter, add to crumb and mix, pour into cake tin and flatten down evenly.

To take into account the extra biscuit I weighed out 87g, perhaps a little bit too much …..  Mixed it all together and began to flatten with spoon but decided fingers might be better.  Should have put an apron on before I started.  Had a little hoppy dance to Earth Wind and Fire on the radio, perhaps it was more of an enthusiastic sway.  OH bangs on kitchen door gesturing to greenhouse cover he left inside.  He says I am his assistant.  The word “lovely” was never mentioned.

In a large bowl mix 400g of sweetened condensed milk and 225g full fat cream cheese.

The cream cheese comes in pots of 280g and as space in the fridge is at a premium at the moment I bunged the lot in, mixing it with a tin of disgustingly sweetened condensed milk.  I never said this was a healthy recipe.  OH taps on window with his face pressed against a wire shelf.  *sigh*  Another dash to see if postie is on the way, as we have box of Lindor for her.

In another bowl whisk 300ml of double cream until thick and it can be lifted into peaks.

When I gave OH the shopping list I asked him to get 300g of cream.  This is a mistake I have made before.  Many years ago I had a holiday job in a grocers shop and I served someone cream in grams rather than millilitres.  She returned later and complained.  Unfortunately, for her, the person she grumbled at was my mum, who worked in the same shop.  Out of interest I have just investigated and 300ml of cream weighs 292g.   Obviously a catastrophic mistake.  It is highly likely that in the future I will make the same error again.  It is always best to know the enemy.  OH, a little bewildered by this anomaly, bought 600ml just to be sure.  It is unlikely to go to waste.

I whipped the cream, with a little extra for luck, until it was thick and could be lifted into peaks.   I can obey the rules sometimes.  Almost.  Definitely should have worn an apron.

Add the cream to the cheese/milk mix and stir in gently.

Gentle, that’s my second name.  OH pops in, grabs the whiskey bottle, takes several large gulps and head back outside without a word.  Seems like its going well.

Stir in zest and juice of two unwaxed lemons.

I’m not entirely sure that the lemons are unwaxed, although the chances are that they are, and they are looking a little past the first flush of youth.  Attempt a little zesting then give up.  Juice the frazzled fruit and top up with some extra from a bottle.  A few pips escape me, but manage to fish them all out, probably.  Otherwise it can become a new tradition, whoever finds the pip gets to do the washing up or an extra brussel sprout.  Also a great opportunity for a little festive Heimlich manoeuvre.  More stirring.  Still no postie.

Carefully spoon the mixture over the crumb base and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably over night.

More carefulness, I am surpassing myself today.  The mixture, possibly as I added a little bit more of both cream and cheese, reaches right to the top of the tin.   I covered it with foil and carefully placed it in the fridge.  Then I began my patient wait.  Or as patiently as I can muster.  Don’t be tempted to look too soon.  This had been confirmed by my good friend Betsy.  Her big cheesecake reveal turned out to be a big lemony cheesy flood.   Then to cooks perks.  Licked out the bowl.  It tastes wonderful.  Now I wonder how is OH getting on? There is a mountain of washing up to be done ……

ps  Postie didn’t turn up, greenhouse did.



Hairy Dhal – Better than it sounds

It is raining.  Proper grown up rain.  No wishywashy, dampen the odd leaf drizzle, but a full-on-soil-soaking-persistent downpour.  Jubilation!

Hang on a minute, I was going to do some potting on at home today, that plan has been scuppered.  I try to stay dry on my days off, there is enough soggy gardening at work.  A free day, with no obligations or demands on my time, what a treat.  How shall I use this precious time?  I will put my feet up and watch the omnibus edition of Star Trek.  That would be great.   But the adverts are such a bore.  I have a dedicated book to read during these mainly nauseating interludes, it is called my Advert Break Book.  Brilliant eh?

Today I feel like a change.  Perhaps I could cook something.  We have Keralan fish curry for tea, as yet a virtual dish although I have faith it will become reality, I will made a dhal to go with it.  I do love dhal.  Then I could share my culinary experiences.  It has been ages since we have done cooking!

The recipe is from the wonderful Hairy Bikers‘ book Great Curries, which luckily for them (and me) is not in contravention of the Trades Description Act.  It is indeed full of great curries.  Including this one.  Which is actually an amalgam of two dhals.  Needs did must.  One day I had set my heart before realising that we were right out of red lentils (schoolgirl error), the shops were closed/too far away/I was in my pajamas and I really, really, really, really wanted dhal (laughable middle class problem).  It was necessary to regroup and this was the result.   As always, the real recipe, or approximation, is in normal font, my interpretation in italics.

All-in-one Split Pea Dhal mash-up with Massoor (Split Red Lentil) Dhal

Wash 300g split peas and then put in a pan with 1.2l of water and one teaspoon each of turmeric and garam masala.

I’ve only got 178g of split peas (distinct feeling of deja vu) so ask OH to buy some more when he get the Sunday papers.  He tells me they are very difficult to find.  I disagree.  He returns triumphant.  Mix the old and new which I am not sure is a good thing as a voice in my heads says they might cooks at different rates.  Old ones a bit tougher.  Hard luck.  It is done.   Pretty certain that the brown stuff in the unmarked jar is garam masala.  Add to washed peas, water and turmeric.  So far so good.  Hope that is garam masala.  Could be interesting.

Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that forms on the top.

All the spice seems to be at the top, so surely I will lose it if I “skim”?  Make a token effort just to keep the HB lads happy.

Fry one onion in ghee or oil until pale golden brown.

Ghee?  A step too far for OH and possibly the staff at the local Tescos, although I may be doing them a disservice.  Stick to oil.  Onion, no probs.  Do a little more skimming.  Nice word, unlike scum which although descriptive has a nasty feel about it.  Popped in to see how Jean Luc was getting on, got a little distracted, onions dark bronze brown.

Turn heat down and grate in 15g ginger and 2 garlic cloves and cook for 2 minutes.

Cut piece of ginger, not enough, cut a bit more, still short, a slither and we are slightly over.  No matter, once peeled it should be about right.  Getting bored now.  I hate grating ginger, even though I now have a swish Japanese grater, it doesn’t prevent nail filing incidents.  Drop piece into hot pan several times, retrieve without burning fingers too badly.  Use garlic crusher.  Decide 3 garlic cloves would be better as we love it and I am a rebel.  Oops forgot to turn heat down.  Remove from heat completely and frantically scrape bottom of pan.  No one will know.

Add 2 chopped medium tomatoes, half a teaspoon of salt and a whole plump green chilli, split up the side.

Add 3 chopped medium tomatoes (see above), half a teaspoon of salt and a whole plump green chilli.  Cut the green stalky things out of the toms, does anyone else do that or am I just been finicky?

Stir for 5 minutes until tomatoes are soft, stirring often, and add to split peas.

Star Trek denouement imminent, turn heat up, stir for a couple of seconds and chuck it in with the juvenile dhal.  Rush to find out that Data was not having a funny turn, due to the fact that he is an android he could sense the parasites that were sucking the blood from the rest of the Enterprise crew.  Mind at rest now.

Loosely cover and simmer for 60-75 minutes until thick and soft, stirring regularly.

Set to simmer.  After about 15 minutes realise I had forgotten to split the chilli.   Poke about in the pan until I find the offending capsicum, then gleefully stab at it for a while.

Shortly after remember I had forgotten to set the timer.  Last year my dog leapt off the top of the fridge, broke an ear and no longer rings.  This is a disadvantage when you are a timer.  I have a new one.  An enigmatic cat.  I love him, but not quite as much as the original.  While we are waiting you might as well take a look.

Stir , rest, stir, rest, stir.  Still didn’t set the timer, too late now.  Stir, bit liquidy still, perhaps I should leave the lid off for a while.  Stir, hungry now, toast crumpets.  Notice the fairies have not yet done the washing up, do washing up.

Scoff crumpets, cambozola and tomato since you ask.  Do more washing up.  Forget to stir.  Doing plopping lava impersonation as warned by HBs.  Turn off.  A little scraping. Taste.  Yum.  Taste again.  May have repeated several times just to make sure seasoning is correct.  Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Time passes.

Nearly tea time.  Gently re-heat dhal.

Just before serving add Tadka.  Fry 1/2 teaspoon each of chilli flakes, cummin seed and black mustard seed in oil for 15 seconds, stirring constantly.  Do not burn.  Add pinch of asafoetida and stir into dhal.

Google Tadka.  “Indian tempering technique often used as a finishing touch to dhal”.  Great.  Must focus now as cat does not do seconds even if I remember to set him.   Measure out ingredients.  Meditate.  Get mini-frying pan ready.  Tips up but I catch it.  Add everything except asofoetida. Stir and count.  Manage not to get distracted.  I am a yogic master.  Ninja cook.  No time to gloat.  Sprinkle last ingredient, the mysterious asofoetida.  Stir into dhal.  Taste.  Double yum.


After all that palaver, and more, we have arrived at our destination, dhal, fish curry, rice and nan.  All we need is for someone to eat it.  That is the easy bit.

There are thousands of different recipes for dhal, but this one comes highly recommended, not by a bon vivant or food critic, but by a gardener with a good appetite.   Give it a go, although it is possibly best to follow the chaps recipe rather than mine. It makes a good amount, you could always half the quantities but why bother with all those calculations, it is even better the next day and the day after……

The crumpets were good too.  You can probably master them on your own.






Ice and Fire

The polar caps are receding at a terrifying rate.   I think I know where all the ice has gone, my fridge.  Today was the day of the big defrost.  This needs to be done so we can fit some food into it for the Christmas period.  Something has gone amiss.  Not only is the freezer ice-bound, so is my fridge.  In fact there may be more ice in the fridge than in the freezer.  Possibly a gumbletock has blown.  Or the like.  A shiny new (properly regulated) appliance is planned for the new year, until then we will have to make do.  With no exaggeration (moi?), so frostbound is my fridge-freezer that members of the British Museum are standing by in case I uncover a woolly mammoth in its icy depths.

In the past few weeks I have been attempting to empty the freezer, all that was left was a tub of Madagascan vanilla ice cream and a bag of peas.  These I gave to the safe-keeping of my neighbour.  Now I am wondering if I should have got a receipt.  For the peas.  She would never eat the ice cream.  Surely.

Whilst the slow thaw proceeded, I thought I would try my hand at making some crystallised ginger.  After a little research, thanks Admin Annie, I found a couple of recipes on line.  Really it didn’t look too tricky.  As I haven’t shared any of my recipes for a while, I thought this the ideal opportunity, think of it as an early Christmas present.

As always, the recipe is in normal font, my interpretation in italics.

Crystallised Ginger


300g of ginger and 300g of granulated sugar

Eeeek!  That doesn’t sound very healthy.  Choose to ignore the fact.


Peel ginger using a spoon

You are joking right?  A spoon?  OK, I’ll give it a go.  Actually this working out quite well.  Who would have thought it?  Smells lovely.

Slice thinly with a mandolin

A mandolin?  I may have a tin whistle somewhere, but not sure I have any stringed instrument at all.  I am going to go off piste here and use a knife and be really really careful.  Most pieces seem to be quite thin and even.  The odd bit is a little rustic.  Rustic is good, right?

Place in heavy based pan, cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes until tender

Heavy based pan.  The pan I have will have to do, heavy or not.  Simmering.  All is well.  Set alarm.  Realise I have to pop up the post box so turn the hob off, just in case.  Return in the blink of an eye.  Turn the cooker back on.  Might have lost a couple of minutes.  Check fridge, little change.  Keep simmering ginger.  Stab after 35 minutes.  Tough as shoe leather.  Turn up a bit.  Check fridge, might take a while.  Complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw.  Check ginger again, what exactly is tender?  Test a little.  Ouch.  Who wrote this recipe? Fridge still Narnia.  Read War and Peace.  Check ginger, surely that will do, getting bored now. Remember why I am not a home baker.

When tender, drain ginger and weigh, reserving a little of the water.  Return to the pan with the same weight in sugar and three tablespoon of cooking liquor.

Did exactly as instructed, except I added a bit less sugar and more water.  

Bring to the boil and stir often until translucent.

It is boiling away nicely, although perhaps I shouldn’t have added the extra water.  Why did I do that?  Idiot.  Check fridge.  Shackleton would have felt at home.  Oops better stir.  Looking hopeful.  

Turn heat down and stir continually until almost dry.

Almost dry, what does that mean?  I know, it means, until you lose the will to live.  What do I do now?  Bit of a gap in the instructions.  Luckily I am an expert at making things up as I go along.  I  will turn it out onto baking parchment (still a mystery as to why I possess any of this stuff) and spread it out until cool.

When cool dust with more sugar.

No I won’t, so there!

The End

The fridge is still not done.  The mummified half lemon has been extracted and disappointingly the British Museum are singularly uninterested.

The ginger is rather lovely, extremely fiery.  I have forgotten about all that sugar already.

A Culinary Essay


Yesterday Lionel and Lavinia gave me a big bag of bramley apples.   Very kind and very welcome.

There is something I must do today, or at least make a good start, it has to be finished by the middle of next week.  As a masteress of procrastination, I have decided that before I begin this important task I must first bake something with the gifted fruit.

OH nearly fell off his perch when I told him that I would be cooking a pudding.  Such hysteria should not be encouraged. Surely I have cooked a pudding before?  Although I can’t quite put my finger on when or what it was.

I dusted off the cook books and decided on a recipe from the spendid Lorraine Pascale.  We have so much in common, me and Lor, and not just in the looks department.  The delicacy I chose was called Chausson aux Pomme*.

This culinary opportunity is too good to miss, don’t fight, there is not escape, I am going to share my baking adventure with you**:

Peel, core and cut 1.3kg of apples into bite sized pieces.

Weigh apples.  Wonder if it is important that there are not quite enough? Of course not. What is a couple of hundred grams between friends?  Start to peel and cut into bite sized piece.  Decide I need music, go upstairs and fetch my iPod, put Chas and Dave sing Leonard Cohan on shuffle. Continue peeling and chopping.  Then realise that I should have washed them first. Mind you if they are going to be peeled does it really matter?  Give them cursory rinse anyway.  Continue to peel and cut.  I should have tied my hair up first.  Go upstairs to find hair tie. Realise I should have washed hands first.  Enjoying apple scented hair.  Taking so long the first apples are turning an unattractive brown.  Rearrange so I can’t see the beige ones.

Sprinkle with 1tsp each of cinnamon and ginger.  No problem, although I forgot to take into account the short fall of apples.  It won’t matter.  We like tasty food in our house.

Add 3tbsp of water.  Easy peasy.  We’ve got plenty of that, it is North Devon after all!

Then add 75g of soft brown sugar.  Look for soft brown sugar.  Find demerara, dark brown and muscovado.  Frown.  Look in sugar pot, convince myself it looks soft and brown and it is definitely sugar.  As no one in this house take sugar it has probably been there for a while.  Never mind, sell by dates are for wimps.  Weigh out sugar, remembering to put a little less in.  I may be learning. Unlikely as it may be.

Find stray apple in the sink, peel, core and add to others.

Stir whilst singing loudly to celebrate my triumph.

Cook on low to medium heat for 8 minutes.   Ponder “low to medium heat” and decide on “low” as it is a new pan and I don’t want any accidents.

Set doggie to 8 minutes.

Have a little dance.

Check after 4 minutes, nothing much happening so turn up heat to medium.  Reset doggie to another 8 minutes although this timing thing has gone a bit pear shaped now.

Cook until soft but not mushy.  What do you do if some pieces are mushy and some are hard? This is why I don’t bake.  Stir and hope for the best.

Retire to read “Calculus for Dummies”.  Wake with a start as the darned doggie goes off again.

Grate in the rind of one lemon.  Lemon? Oh dear.  I do have some limes but they are strictly for my medicinal G&Ts.  Maybe I can maybe spare one.  They aren’t as big as lemons so perhaps I will need two.  Two is a bit much to ask.  I know let’s compromise.  Rind and juice of one lime. Admittedly Lor doesn’t mention juice but she may have forgotten.  Too late now.

Add a big knob of butter.  Big knob of butter, sorted.  Stir again and then lick spoon.  Delicious.

Leave to cool completely. 

I spend this time making full butter puff pastry, rolling, folding and turning, chilling in between each careful working.

If you believe that you will believe anything.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. I am surprised as anyone that I own parchment paper. It must have been a mistake.  Perhaps I thought it was tracing paper.  Happily accepting one of the enigmas of life, I duly lined a baking tray with parchment paper.  Who would have thought it?

Roll out pastry.  Open packet of puff pastry.  Roll. Pastry.  Half hardheartedly measure with Mr Jewson’s metal tape.  Lose the will to live.  Cut random oblongy shapes and fill with gunk.  Seal with egg wash.  Sort of.

Bake for 25 minutes at Gas mark 6 and whatever the other folk use.  They come out of the oven and are rather rustic in appearance.  I fear that I may have taken pack full of apple filling  past the point that my pastry could handle.  OH examines them “I love spillage” he says.  This is why I love him.

I am rather concerned about how I am going to remove them from the famous baking parchment. It seems to be welded onto the bottom.  Also a little concerned that the bottoms are soggy. Put back into oven with the cauliflower curry.  It may impart an interesting aroma.

Sprinkle with icing sugar.  Call neighbour to see if she has any icing sugar.  She is out.  How selfish.

Icing sugar is so last year.  Decide to forgo this frivolity.

Several days later, or does it just seem that way, the Apple Turnover is ready.  Was it worth the trouble? Definitely not.

Now wasn’t there something I was supposed to be doing ….

* Apple turnovers

**Lorraine’s instructions are in italics.  My interpretation in normal font.

*** Try to imagine it with a sprinkling of icing sugar, it would have covered a multitude of sins.

**** They were delicious.


Our Daily Bread

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Today is a day of reflection.  A day of much sadness.  Like many, I feel impotent, bewildered, unnerved, despairing, a little scared.  Mostly sad though.

So I thought I would make bread.  I haven’t baked for a long time, it fell out of favour in my world for some unknown reason.  Probably laziness.  Co-incidentally, on a whim, I had bought some fresh yeast and bread flour yesterday, with noble intentions.  In case anyone else would like to give it a go, here is my recipe:

First weigh out your ingredients.  Then realise that when OH had said “the scales aren’t working” and you thought he had just been pushing the wrong buttons and dismissed it with a wave of the hand, was in fact because the battery had worn out.  Sigh.  Look for new battery, in the new battery drawer.  Find loads of junk but no appropriate battery.  Give up looking.

Next consider asking your lovely neighbours if you can borrow theirs.  Reconsider as they are probably not up yet.  Decide to go free-style.

Look for recipe, decide you quite like the sound of Nigel Slater’s but will morph it with Paul Hollywood adaptation for wholemeal flour and take influence from the one on the back of the flour packet.

Put all of the flour in a bowl because it is a 1kg bag and you can just double up the recipe in the book, add 60g of fresh yeast (estimated as you had bought 100g) and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (placed at opposite side to the yeast as they don’t make good allies).   Make a small effort to rub the yeast in and around the flour.

Realise that you need softened butter and wonder at what point hard butter (which is what you have got) becomes softened butter before it becomes melted butter.  Decide you don’t care and melt it anyway – about 60g again (remember no scales).  Pour into flour and mix around a bit.

Measure out 640ml of luke warm water (-ish the measuring jug lines are a bit faint).  Put new measuring jug on shopping list.  Start to pour water into flour combo and panic before it all goes in as it looks distinctly like a very runny ectoplasm.  Mix about with your spurtle (porridge stirrer from Edinburgh) realise there is no option but to get your hands in there and sort it out.

Set your iPod on shuffle, plug in and go for it.  Tip out gunge onto floured worktop, white flour because I used all the wholegrain seeded stuff in the mix and didn’t save any for later.  Wait for the phone to ring.  Panic again as it seems to be very wet, add a few sprinkles of flour and keep kneading for about 10 minutes or until something you have been meaning to remove comes on the iPod and is so irritating you have to stop.

Form into a ball of sorts and put into a mixing bowl, cover with tea towel.  Look around the kitchen and scream.  Try to tidy up a little before OH comes home.  Look in mirror and scream.  Put the kettle on.

Watch some Hercules on the TV and have a cup of tea.  Return to the kitchen to check on developments, throw hands in air in horror as an enormous whoopee cushion is emerging out of the bowl.  Tip out onto work surface as before and start to knead again, open front door to OH who has been shopping.  Quickly oil and flour tins (one large, one smaller because that is what I have), divide up dough into tins vaguely taking into account different sizes. Cover with tea towel and unpack shopping.

Watch some Hercules on the TV and have a cup of coffee.  Put oven on to gas mark 8 and after a cursory heat up put bread on top shelf of the oven.  Read recipe which says slash top before you put it in the oven.  Decide this is a rubbish idea.

Watch some Hercules on the TV and eat a bag of cheese and onion crisps.  Check oven after 30 mins and swoon over their bronzed beauty.  Remove from tins, with either a quick tap or curse and dig about with a knife like a frenzied harpy, dependent on what kind of day you are having. Perform a ceremonial walk around the living room carrying your creations aloft singing “behold the glorious bread”.

Wait for them to cool for approximately 30 seconds.  As a grown up I take full responsibility for my own tummy aches.


Strikes and Soup

IMG_1049Three strikes and I am out.

First strike:  The night was a wild one, for all the wrong reasons.  The rain hammered against the windows, the wind shook the house by the shoulders and sleep was patchy.  The morning broke, a little stunned but dry.  Although heavy thundery showers were forecast, I decided to risk it for a biscuit.  As I loaded the car I chose to ignore some pioneer drops.

Second strike:  My vertigo had reared its ugly head again overnight and wobbly-itis was corrupting my sight and balance.  It was not too severe though, I was confident that it would improve as the day progressed and if not I could always come home again.  A nice steady drive out to Lord and Lady Mantle’s estate.

Third strike:  About a quarter of my way to work, with the downpour getting into its stride, there was a sign blocking my way “Road Closed, No Access to Combe Martin”.  As I wasn’t going to Combe Martin how could this refer to me?  So myself and a few others took a chance, it is always easier to break the rules in a pack!  As it turned out this was an unwise gamble and soon we were about-turned and told to take the diversion via The Back of Beyond.

I went home.

So what do I do when I am feeling under the weather?  I make soup.  Today it was roasted garlic and butternut squash.  I thought I would share it with you.

First cut up your squash and remove the seeds, don’t bother peeling.  Size is directly proportional to cooking time.  The smaller the quicker, the larger the longer.  I’m sure you had worked that one out already, but there is always someone who gets a little confused (yes, that’s right, you in the corner!).  Arrange carefully in an anarchic manner in a roasting tray.  Don’t worry if some seeds make their way in to the pan, they make a nice and crunchy treat for the cook later.

Chuck in some unpeeled garlic cloves, as many as you dare and then one more.  I think I used 7 or 8.  Vampires beware!

Douse with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and bung in the oven.  I cook everything at gas mark 5 or 6, no matter, it will cook in the end.  It will probably take about 45 minutes, or until you smell something heady and honeyed wafting from the oven and shout “oh my God, the squash!”.

Meanwhile fry an onion.  It is the law to have an onion in every soup.  Of course if it is onion soup you will need more than one.

When cooked, skin the squash (again no stress if a bit left on) and chop up whilst nibbling on the roasted seed.  Add to King Onion, squeeze in garlic (now) paste.   Cover and a bit more with vegetable stock.  Simmer for a while to let the ingredients get to know each other.

Blend.  In my house we have a difference of opinion.  On many things.  Blending is one of them.  I am with the smoooooooooth and luscious party.  OH is with the chunky and cheerful sector.  Up to you, I would never come between a soup and its maker.

Check for seasoning.  This step was only added because recipes always say that.  I am sure it will be just perfect as it is.



Not a Carrot

IMG_0474Today was a classic summer’s day, a cliché almost.  Wall to wall sunshine, a warm but gentle breeze, a sky unsullied by clouds.  Apart from quick drying washing and an evening barbecue, this unusual occurrence was not taken advantage of.  It was not a working day and I had things to do that did not involve gardening, I needed to work indoors.  I am not a domestic goddess.  I do not make jam or marmalade, I once made chutney but as I don’t like chutney this was not a great success.  Pickled onions and shallots are a thing of the past.  If the locusts (locals) have left some fruit I will make sloe gin.  I bake only on occasion, my flower arranging technique is “bung them in”, there are no Christmas garlands or sun-dried herbs.  However I am a demon at making rosemary oil.   For those of you interested my method is as follows:

  • First pick a load of rosemary.
  • Beat it into submission with a rolling pin and stuff it into a container of your choice.  I use a spaghetti jar, quite why there is one of these in our house I have no idea, but at least this makes good use of it.
  • Push similarly whacked cloves of garlic and a couple of chillies (yes I know it looks like a carrot) into the jar.
  • Pour in enough oil to cover.  The profession DG’s would say use “bland” oil but I find that an insulting description.  I would prefer to say it is best not to use the highly flavoured ones such as olive.  It is however your party, use whatever you like.  Today I used a mix of sunflower and rape seed.
  • Stand back and admire your handiwork.
  • Every day or, more realistically when you remember, give it a shake and after a couple of weeks it is ready.
  • Strain off the gunky stuff and bottle up.
  • Use to it to cook your roast potatoes in and you will thank me for ever more.