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)