Saturday, 23 February 2013

Hello You!

OMG long time no see.  How the devil are you???  Okay, so it has been a while - 9 months to be exact.  Enough time to have been pregnant and given birth but that's not what I have been up to!  Way too busy for that kind of stuff.

I got very despondent in the middle of last year during our kitchen renovation.  I couldn't be bothered to write because I had nothing note worthy to write. Unless of course you wanted to read about what a pain in the backside it all was having no floor in the middle section of the house, no Internet and no kitchen.  Then I suppose I just got out of the habit of putting fingers to keyboard.

But how things have changed since I last wrote.  I am now one child down, in that the boy has left and gone to University.  As far as that is concerned I couldn't be more please, he is happy to be out of the house and should have a first in drinking by the end, (obviously I am ever hopefully as far as his studies go).
In other news my kitchen sparkles and shines like no other before bringing me great joy, completely worth all the heartache.

The finished article 

And wonders of wonders I am learning the wonderful art of cooking at the very prestigious Leiths.  Truthfully I couldn't quite believe it during the first term, little ol' me at Leiths, how funny is that.  And even now, I still love every minute.  It's hard and takes a lot out of you but gives just as much back.  I have made the most wonderful things, pies with aspic - which I would never in a million years try on my own.

Something to reference my flavours with.

 Hot watercurst pie, something I am proud of.

Plucking and drawing (to pull its guts out) pheasants, okay I only plucked one feather out and that because I was told I had to.  And no I didn't touch it's innards.  If I can't pluck the creature I definitely can't pull its guts out!  We cook every day and have some wonderful demonstrations, a stand out one was offal.  Deep fried sheep's brains, marrow, sweet bread's and ahh yes some liver and kidneys to follow.  As part of each cooking session we have time plans to write, now they are a right pain but a necessity.  To top this, as part of the course we are doing a Wine and Spirits Diploma.  How my head hurts sometimes and yet I just love it.

Pate sucree tarts, obvioulsy I am still working on the presentation side of things.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Back in Touch

I am thrilled to have more followers, thank you all so very much. I know I haven't written much lately but given the state of my home at the moment I am finding it rather difficult.  Having no kitchen to speak of and dust coating every surface, it can be a bit too much. I know that the change of weather is on my side with beautifully hot days but it did rain solidly for the first 3 weeks of the build.  I am progressing though and with the good weather I have cracked out the barbecue.  More on the culinary delights it has delivered up in my next post.

Not quite ready for cooking in!

 Windows and doors would be good.

All this upheaval and lack of anything interesting to eat will be worth it.

We have been very fortunate though with a trip to Norway a few weeks ago to celebrate our friends 40th birthday and their move to Froya Island from Trondheim.  I enjoy going to Norway, it's always heart warming to see friends that make you laugh and smile from the off.  I was amazed how much Froya really reminded me of Connemara on the west cost of Ireland.  Perhaps it was the windswept barren isolation of our surroundings that had me thinking of home.

The Girl with her camera - Froya Island

An island community.

 A greyer day on the most westerly tip of Froya.

On our first night we were treated to a fantastic Norwegian dish of baked salmon with sour cream and new potatoes accompanied by the most delicious eggs which had been soft boiled, deshelled and then mixed with what must have been a pound of butter, this I am assuming as I was given a wry smile by our host when I asked. Not a combination I would have thought to put together but really fab. There is no picture evidence of this dish as it was in my gullet before my brain had time to react.

A very windy day.

My dear friend Kat having read my post on making krumkrakker gave me a wonderful present of a cast iron one, I could have cried it's so lovely. Now my ice cream cones will be tasty and beautiful.

 See how pretty my krumkrakke is!

The second evening was a celebration of crayfish and scallops. Having been cut in half and cooked over an open fire the crayfish was served with a simple salad and dressing. (I have never had lobster before but I can't imagine that they would be any sweeter or tastier than crayfish).  The scallops so fresh they were served raw. Nothing more was needed. The following night had more crayfish and scallops but with the addition of Bacalhau, a Portuguese salt cod dish, it was another evening of glorious dining.

 Crayfish ready for the BBQ.

We had waffle's almost every day, I absolutely love them with raspberry jam and sour cream - I know I could have waffle's here, but they wouldn't be the same.
The decadence of our foodie weekend was not lost on me and so I savoured it as we started our journey over land, sea and air to our nonexistent kitchen on the Monday morning.

 Strangely they were giving away the mug in a craft shop we were looking in - can't think why!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ham Hock Terrine

 Too much butter, not enough meat perhaps.

To celebrate the addition of my one member - more always welcome - I have decided to make a Ham Hock Terrine.  There is no explanation for this choice other than I wanted to give it a try.  This is an Australian MasterChef recipe and as they say on the show it is a good adult breakfast together with poached egg and brioche.  This recipe uses butter which I prefer the sound of, as opposed to using gelatin.  I am planning to serve it as part of a brunch menu with warm homemade crusty bread to spread it on.

I am happy with how the terrine has worked out although I don't think my hocks gave out as much meat as I needed, as the recipe called for 250g of butter.  Having thought about it, you need to get the meat off the hock first and then add say 200g of butter to see how it comes together and add more if necessary.  I have found that if you are eating it at room temp and not having it with something hot it can be too solid in texture.

Smoked ham hocks, pretty hidous looking but once cooked, yum!

It isn't a cheap dish to make as the hocks cost £8.50 from my local butcher and they can be more bone than meat.

You can use either chicken stock or water to cook the hocks.

I chose to use water to cook the hocks and the resulting stock once sieved taste's really good with a lovely smoky edge.  Am freezing the cooking liquor to use with a different pork dish at some stage.

All tucked up wrapped in Serrano Ham and cling film.

The end result is a rich smoky terrine ideal for a summer lunch.  As a snack on hot toast it is delicious!

If you want to have a go at this recipe you can find it at this web address
In the end there was too much for us so I gave a third to our friends up the road and have stuck the rest in the freezer.  Let me know if you do have a go and how it turns out.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Writers Block

So I have been doing a writing course for a few weeks now just to try and better my blog, and I am sure of two things.  One, writers block is real and two, writing doesn't come easy to me.  It's an odd thing really, it seems that if I try and force myself to write the articles for the homework we have been set I just can't pull it together.  I write different paragraphs starting in different ways to try and find a style that allows me to flow freely, but I think it still reads in a disjointed way.  I don't want to plagiarise someone else, so my head aches with trying so hard while finding it so difficult.  Perhaps it's the style of writing itself which is being asked for that is beyond me.  I don't seem to be able to write with a dispassionate voice.  I like to just be me, whether that means nobody reads what I have to say I don't mind so much - well maybe a bit.

I have learnt quite a few things which I'm putting into practice, like using my new grammar book which is actually very useful - it's amazing what you forget.  Trying not to start all my sentences with 'I' and being as factual and acurate as I can needs to be a constant.  Something that's been very interesting is meeting different people from the foodie industry that have come to talk to us about their area of expertise.  We had the restaurant reviewer Andy Lyons one week and  I particulary liked Jennifer Joyce who came to talk about her cook books and how she got published having not been a TV chef.  Although, it wasn't new news to hear that it was hard work and determination (with a good pinch of luck) that got her recipes into print.

So to make a point, instead of doing my homework like a good girl, I wrote this instead!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Here's a rant I made earlier.

Why in heavens name do some people insist on telling you everything they did to the food you are eating!  If I sit down to a meal I want to chat and perhaps comment on its deliciousness, discuss it maybe for a moment or two, but then move on to the next subject. But my husband won't let go of his captive audience and bores us all to tears with his trip to the kitchen.  You only have to give him an inch and there he is telling us about how he chopped the coriander and made an effort to dice the red onion particularly small.  Please Stop! His food is good, we all love eating it but don’t take the enjoyment away from us, by prattling on.  The kids of course think he’s funny and it’s funny that I get so cross.  But I suppose the plain truth is, is that I am jealous.  How dare he produce good food in my kitchen especially when he only cooks once in a blue moon.  Typical man.

Monday, 30 January 2012

My New Gadget

Today I got a metal potato ricer which, just in case your wondering, is the best thing since sliced bread!  I am loving it.  Now I too can have silken potatoes and no longer will the mash that I envy so much be only the domain of others. 

Of course given it is only my first time using it, (not that you'd think it should be difficult) I managed to under cook my potatoes and so have ended up with slightly grainy mash.  Perhaps some more butter/milk/cream will sort it.  But not to worry, I'll get it right next time.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

An Empty Fridge

I have just been reading Trish Deseine's blog 'Feeding my World' and she was talking about getting your kids used to seeing an empty fridge, unfortunately mine are only all too used to it.  And the reason is this, I plan ahead with weekly meal plans.  As organised as it might seem, the fridge only looks full for so long and not as long as you might think.  I do my best not to buy too much quick gratification food stuffs.  Firstly because they are expensive and secondly because they never last long - hence quick gratification.  Although the kids tend to kibosh me regularly with demands for crisps, I try to ignore their pleas but even I know what simple pleasure a packet of crisps can give you!  

As always with me its onwards and upwards and so I am trying to teach myself to be a better cook.  I can't afford an intensive year long course as much as I would love it.  I have an awful lot of cookbooks on a variety of topics and my thinking is, if I have to make thing's from scratch then my understanding will be greater and hopefully my food will taste better.  Thanks to Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking my chicken stock is knockout and a brilliant base for my soups and sauces.  Last weekend I got 5 chicken carcass's from the butcher for 50p, so there really is no excuse.  I don't add any salt into the stock base as advised by Darina, enough will get added in later.  A good vegi option is Kerstin Rodgers vegetable stock from her Supper Club cook book.  She adds in garlic cloves which I think raises the stock up a level.

 Homemade chicken stock