Monday, 3 March 2008

"There are more than enough tarts in this kitchen already…"


We feel slightly guilty and unprofessional when we have people for supper and no pudding so it falls to me to magic something out of the cupboards that is impressive and delicious and preferably decorated with Barbie sprinkles (my sister’s favourite food).
It’s supposed to be an effortless ten minute thing which I can carry into the party to rapturous applause. So I turned to Nigella and decided on an orange curd tart which now, with hindsight, I see was a silly idea.
We have no Seville oranges, an absolute must according to the domestic goddess - never make a tart without them! – so I scrabble together a line-up of sad clementines from the fruit basket, all of which would fail every EU regulation, and begin to juice and zest them.
The pastry instruction in the recipe are militant, insisting on iced surfaces, 20 minutes in the fridge after every stage of production and a cup of iced water present at every moment should the pastry… burst into flames. Mum shouted over my shoulder that this it was all far too precious and I could leave it out, but not yet confident enough to ignore the potential wrath of a wronged cookbook, I persevered with the chilling, only refusing to wait for one final stint in the fridge before cooking, pulling it out and having a glass of wine instead (…Floyd would have).
Realising also, that I need more egg yolks than I thought possible and no muscavado sugar I have to ring up the soon-to-arrive guests and beg them to bring the ingredients, which is definitely the worst thing to hear before a dinner party and all credit to them for showing up at all.
The orange curd (75g demerera sugar, 100g caster sugar, juice and zest of 4 seville oranges, 3 eggs + 2 yolks, 150 g cold butter in cubes) whisked and brought to boil (let it bubble for one minute and NO longer scolds Nigella) I poured the mix into the pastry case and panicked about its runny consistency.
After supper it was fine, miraculously thickened and set enough to cut into slices. No standing ovation this time, possibly having overheard the panic, just the above comment in jaunty tones. Ho ho.

Rhubarb and clementine stew

In January having succumbed to the temptation to buy forced rhubarb (so lovely and pink and skinny), I realised I had to do something with it (not to mention the bowl of old clementines and a leftover handful of blueberries) before they all went brown and mouldy. I also wanted something other than banana to put on the muesli.

Rhubarb and clementine stew with blueberries

Chop the rhubarb into 2cm chunks, peeling off any intractable bits of stringy skin. Slice whole clementines into rounds (I left the skin on) and put the rhubarb and the clementine slices, and a handful of blueberries if you have them, into a saucepan with brown sugar and a very small amount of water. Put over a low heat, until the rhubarb is soft and beginning to fall apart. Leave to cool, and then decant into a bowl and serve with muesli or yoghurt (you can also add lumps of crystallised ginger, or half a cinnamon stick to the pan at the beginning of cooking).

Famous Flo’s lime juice and tomato pasta


Famous Flo mostly exists on seeds and illicit spoonfuls of dolce de leche, but when she does decide to cook, anything can happen. For one thing, the house fills up with lovesick teenage boys, desperate to be in the same room as her, and small girls who look on her as a mysterious goddess descended to earth. It’s like having Amy Winehouse round to cook your supper. On this occasion, Famous Flo had found nothing in the cupboards other than limes, tomatoes and pasta shells...

Baked sausages


a useful way of using up old sausages left behind in the fridge. Make sure they smell ok first

Preheat the oven to 175c. Put as many sausages as you need, or have, into a baking tin and put in the oven. Turn them every now and then to make sure they brown evenly (should take roughly 40-45 mins, depending on size of sausage). About ten minutes before the end of cooking, drizzle a little bit of cream over the sausages and put back in the oven. This will give them a gorgeous, burnt sticky look. Serve with the tomato sauce (for four people, you’d need roughly 6 medium tomatoes and as many garlic cloves as you like. If the sauce comes out too creamy, add a couple of finely chopped small tomatoes at the end for colour) and mashed potatoes.

Tomato sauce


I discovered this sauce one evening when my husband, W, had found some beefburgers round the corner in the local butcher (‘lovely lovely beefburgers, no e-numbers at all or hormones, from a very very happy free range cow’ he assured me) and fed them to the children (‘sick mum, the best supper we’ve had in ages’). By the time I got home, there was one left, cold. I put it in a casserole dish with two large tomatoes, the remains of a bottle of red wine and some pepper and cooked it (160c) while I boiled two or three new potatoes. When the tomatoes had split and were bubbling in the wine, I removed the skins and the beefburgers, stirred in a bit of cream, put the beefburger back and returned the casserole to the oven while I crushed the potatoes (lightly mash with a large amount of butter and pepper).
The tomato sauce was absolutely delicious, completely extinguishing the hormonal beefburger. Later, I realised I could have improved the sauce by sticking in a couple of cloves of garlic and in fact I did this when we next had it with baked sausages (put a couple of unpeeled cloves into the casserole with the tomatoes, take out when you remove the skins, and squeeze the soft, oozing garlic into the tomatoes and stir in the cream)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Bachelor’s fridge


Possibly one of the most frustrating feelings in the world is repeatedly opening and closing the barren fridge in the desperate hope that you may have missed something delicious on the first attempt. Nothing ever materializes. You are stuck in a food drought and will be forced to eat the most unlikely items from the depths of the store cupboard instead. I made do with a small tin of tuna stretched with the last scraping of mayonnaise, one red pepper from a jar, some elderly iceberg lettuce and a thimbleful of garlicky sweet-potato (and baking potato – a mistake) mash prepared with immense solemnity by a friend who had ridiculed my meal choice as “far too girly”. He won.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


A huge amount of diced beef in the fridge and my sister's point-blank refusal to eat stroganoff
inspired me to try making a stew. Being half Irish, I feel that stew-making is something that I'm supposed to know, intrinsically, how to do, but I always need some cook-book guidance.
Finding absolutely no help in any of the thousands of books scattered throughout the house, even from my favourite teacher Nige(l slater, apparently he just refuses to make them) and feeling thoroughly annoyed with all the chefs populating the kitchen in text form I decided to make it up as I went along. It was all fine in theory until I realised that you need about three hours to stew the meat properly and I had foolishly waited a while, being entirely unable to concentrate while masterchef is on (I am mesmerised by John and Greg's attempts to cram in fist-sized mouthfuls of dainty food).

* roll the meat in seasoned flour and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan. (The important thing is not to crowd the meat in - do it in small batches - otherwise, it will end up stewing in its own juices and not browning properly.) When browned remove from the pan.
*chop an onion into rough strips and cook in the left over oil and meat juices. When they are starting to brown, throw in some roughly chopped mushrooms and parsnips. As this is cooking put the meat back in and add some smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, crushed juniper berries and some thyme (sadly mine was very old and dried from the back of the fridge)
*as this starts to sizzle throw in a glass of red wine (I used a suspicious looking Taste the Difference Portugese wine that said "drink with stew" on its label.)
when the alcohol has cooked off add a pint of vegetable stock, put the lid on and let it sit there simmering for as long as you can bear. (this is where my crucial mistake was made)
I left it for an hour and a bit and was still quite tough so you probably need about 2 1/2 hours.
When ready to serve, add a small spoonful of sour cream to each plate.
Served with mum's favourite potato style (I bet some people don't even have a favourite potato style...) "Crusssshhed potatoes"
N.B if you are serving these you must use the most seductive voice possible.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Bastard Risotto


Inspired to make comforting sunday night risotto by Lucas Hollweg in Style magazine and had to use up the leftover roast chicken as it was emanating such a powerful smell that it was causing boyfriend fridge-opening apprehension.
Ransacked local Turkish supermarket with £3 and bought one lonely carrot, some celery, a handful of sad-looking mushrooms, small UHT single cream and managed to wheedle a few stems of flat leaf parsley for free from suspicious shopkeeper.
Watching American Idol in background, I picked apart chicken (feeling much like Simon Cowell) and put on stock (4 pints of water over chicken carcass, half onion with skin on, sad carrot and celery, at which boyfriend immediately becomes filled with pretend allergy related rage at celery's inclusion in dish)
Followed bastardised version of Jamie Oliver's recipe as had no white wine, parmesan, risotto rice or garlic, but still good thanks to free parsley and garlicky pre-roasted chicken.

* heat stock
*fry finely chopped onion and celery ("Nooo!") in butter and oil to stop burning
* when down (onion is translucent) add rice and stir to ensure all is coated in oil
* add ladleful of stock to calm sizzling (add white wine or vermouth usually but new poverty has rendered impossible)
*stir slowly letting liquid cook off and adding another ladle of stock each time it does so
*carry on until rice is cooked, about 20 minutes, keep checking.
* add salt pepper, some chopped parsley, chicken meat, and mushrooms- chopped
*keep stirring slowly until last liquid has soaked up then stir in some cream and sprinkle last of parsley on top.
*boyfriend will then refuse to eat due to afore-mentioned celery content. consume all.

I heart Phil Jupitus pancakes


only named as such because I had to write down the shrove tuesday recipe for my reluctant chef
sister to impress her fiends with during Never Mind The Buzzcocks and was inspired by the on-screen display of Golden Jupitus. He could eat ALL the pancakes.

8oz flour (plain)
1 pint milk
big pinch Dad's salt (table salt)
2 eggs

*mix flour and salt in bowl - create flour-free void in bowl. fill void with eggs.
*whisk eggs allowing small amount of flour to get involved.
*gradually incorporate more and more flour to the mix all the while balancing thickness with milk, a bit at a time.
*create pleasingly thick (viscous) substance. whisk lots to make bubbles. let stand alone.
*melt butter in a hot pan with a bit of oil to stop it burning
*add ladlefull of batter. coat pan evenly.
*can flip when it moves of own accord when pan is shaken in manner of rapid stabbing.
*eat only with lemon and sugar.

Sunday, 17 February 2008


Tried to force Chrissy to eat celery, it didn't work. I'm rubbish and will never blog again.