Thursday, 29 September 2011

That Monday Feeling

Jose's Lamb Albondigas - very tasty.

The start of another week and I am happy to report that a successful dinner party was had over the weekend.  I have no pictures to show for it as I was so busy cooking I didn't have time but everything got eaten and second and third helpings were had.  Everyone happily hovered down the spicy popcorn but the radish's not so much.  Gizzi's chicken curry and the Rajasthani lamb went down a storm and my chapati's looked authentic and tasted great.  The potato curry ended up looking a bit grey after I added the coconut milk in so that may have put people off having too much of it.  To finish off the evening we played Beat the Intro on the turn table, brains V ipod with our selection of 80's albums.  The brains had it almost every time.  All in all a great night.

On Sunday the freezer needed defrosting and has needed it for some time.  The trouble of course with defrosting the freezer is the waste it causes i.e. the things I will plan to make with the defrosted bits but then forget or the things that need to be thrown out because they have defrosted like spring rolls.  With so much to do and so little time I am trying not to waste any of the meat, I am in the process of making chicken soup for tomorrow with the chicken wings.  Leafing through cookbooks for ideas for the duck breast.  And a Jose Pizaro recipe for the lamb mince 'Albondigas and skinny chips'.  I also have 2 pots of chicken liver, the question is how long does chicken liver pate last once made?  Brilliant idea, I will make one for us and one for our neighbour, they'll eat it.  Perhaps I'll make some bread to go with it.
Pre-cooked lobster - wasted - although it has been in there for an awfully long time.
Cooked chickpeas - wasted - took 5 hurs to cook as per recipe, not sure it was worth the bother.
Homemade puff pastry - wasted
Bits of bread - that can go to the birds so not wasted.
Spring rolls - wasted
Homemade pasta sauce - not sure how long it was in there, so not really wasted as it might make us ill.
Bits of ice-cream - wasted - but would probably never be eaten.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Not a Khana Night

Very excited this week as I have decided to try out some of the recipes from my new Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, Curry Easy for a dinner party on Saturday evening.  I thought it would be fun to do a menu for the table.  They are so going to look at me like I'm crackers.  If I'm being honest they don't really get the supper club thing, but I will not be detered.  I'm not going to going to do starters as such but small accompaniments to the main dishes as suggested by Madhur herself.  Its going to be a bit of a precursor to our Livingstone supper club on the 29th Oct, to see how I feel about cooking for about 10 people and whether my kitchen (and I) can cope.  I'm sure I heard that Heston started out in a teeny weeny kitchen and managed to turn out wonderful food.  God I'm dreaming now, Heston and me aren't exactly on the same page as far as cooking ability is concerned!  Another thought is about enough pots and pans, having said, that my mum did buy a set of them off the tinkers last year which she gave me for Christmas.  They had said they wanted 500 euro for the lot - bloody chancers, thankfully she's dealt with them a few times and managed to knock them down to a 100.  Well, lets face it the pots probably fell off the back of a lorry.

I have to admit that it has been quite thrilling planning the menu and considering all my options.  The whole point of cooking for other people as far as I am concerned is to cook that which the cheap seats (my kids) won't eat.  I like to try new things but hate waste and if I try certain types of meals on them the food is wasted.  I want to be more adventurous so a supper club, I hope, is my perfect solution.  The Boy did well for a while cooking, but now that he's working he's the 'big man well met' and needs his dinner on the table like his daddy.

So this is my menu

Gizzi's Chicken Curry
Baked Chicken
Rajasthani Red Meat
Sri Lankan White Courgette Curry

Sides of

Spicy Popcorn
Seasoned Radishes
Potato Curry
Stirfried Spicy Mushrooms

Served with

Chapati Bread
Plain Basmati 
Prawn Biryani

Monday, 19 September 2011

Still a lot to learn

So I have just read MsMarmite's post on her trip to Ballymaloe to enjoy Outstanding in the field and she has caught the essence of the experience and shared it with everyone even down to the photos she posted.  You could really get a feel for it, I think her style of writing is great and really draws you in.  What a fab blogger you are MsMarmite!  A note to me to improve and  I must remember to take more photos.

Today I am driving myself crazy surrounded by reference books on kitchen design and my morning delivery of Madhur Jaffery's Curry Easy (the cover is soooo pretty) and the Avoca Cafe cookbook (wanted it for ages).  I am in the process of designing our new kitchen, doing scaled drawings and scanning images.  There are tear sheets everywhere.  I'm sure its the too much choice bit that I'm having difficulty with and of course I want us to be happy with the end product.  It's doing my head in!

Ahhh maybe its not so bad.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Its Done

I have finally done it.  After months if not years of thinking and thinking, should I or shouldn't I.  The date got organised first and now I have made it official and posted it onto Supper Club Fan Group the first and hopefully not the last date for the Livingstone Supper Club.  I also tweeted it so my 4 followers are in the know too!  I am so looking forward to it.  I will have to start practicing now so I don't get myself in a tizz nearer the time.  It also gives the fam time to taste everything at least twice.  And I'll have to buy some new bits so everybody has something to eat off and drink out of.  Ahhh there's nothing like a bit of retail therapy to set the heart a flutter.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Outstanding in the Field

Well my trip to Wales went really well.  The only issue I had was finding the place.  Once I arrived at the hotel I decided to leave early so that I could relax once I had found the farm, but finding it proved more tricky than I had anticipated.  After driving around for about 20 minutes I stopped and asked a guy working on house to which he said "Dai, its another one" like I was one of those people from the add that fall from the sky and land on a bale of hay to have their cereal bar.  In other words a townie - either way they couldn't help.  In total I must have spent an hour and a half looking for the place driving up and down the same road and any other road I thought might get me there. The thing is I could see the table and marquee set up on the side of the hill but couldn't figure out how to get there.  I drove up and over, over and around and all I managed was to drive myself crazy and use up petrol.  In the end I gave in and rang the mobile number I had and low and behold I must have passed the entrance 20 times!

What a fantastic event Outstanding in the Field was.  I think that there were about 50 people altogether including suppliers and producers at Trealy's farm.  It was a wonderful bright evening, the food was lovely and I haven't had beetroot that good since I was a child.  I only took one photo and should have taken more because it all looked so fab, but I got carried away eating the stuff.  We had antipasti of Trealy Farm cured meats to start, with a fish course of hot and cold smoked salmon from the Black Mountain Smokery served with varieties of beetroot.  The main was loin of lamb and slow cooked shoulder of lamb from Pen-y-Wyrlod Lamb.  Even cold it was delicious not at all claggy as lamb can be.  A selection of cheeses for the cheese course which included a wonderful little welsh blue, called Perl Las (I think).  And for dessert summer fruit pudding.  Each course was accompanied by English wine from the Ancre Hill Estate.  I thought the Pinot Noir was particularly good. The food, scenery and atmosphere combined to make a superb evening on a hillside in Wales.  At the table, I sat in between the perry producer who supplied pear cider and the sheep farmer who supplied the lamb and who also happens to a vegetarian - go figure.

Picture courtesy of Outstanding in the Field.

 The view.
 Just before we all sat down

 One end,

The other end.

My plate, which I forgot to collect at the end of the evening.

Gorgeous cured meats from Trealy Farm with roasted garlic and pea shoots.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

You learn something every day

I was watching 'The Great British Bake Off' the other day and Mel (one of the presenters) was asking a chap who was kneading his dough if he was thinking of either of the judges while doing it.  His reply - which I completely agree with - was that he didn't believe that that would make for a good loaf but that enjoying the task helped to make a much tastier one. There is a certain enjoyment to be had from making bread, it gives you satisfaction to know that you made it and you know whats in it.  Even if it isn't the most beautiful loaf, it more than likely tastes good.  The thing is that when I make bread, I have a tendency to do things my way which is no way at all really.  I like free form loaves because if I put the dough in a tin I usually can't get it out, something to do with seasoning I believe.  When I follow the recipe it never really ends up as the picture.  My ciabatta can look like a ciabatta one day and just a regular roll the next.  Sometimes it is nice and open with big air holes and other times it is tighter with a more regular bread like interior.  From this I'm sure you can tell that I haven't done a course in bread making and that perhaps I should, but I enjoy it none the less and regardless of its looks my bread tastes great.

What I have learnt having seen the episode on bread making is that I should try some of the things that the contestants had to do to see if this improves the end result of my breads.
Previously I have been just misting the inside of my oven but i will now put a tray of water at the bottom to create the steam.  This hopefully with improve the crust.
For my ciabatta I have to allow it to be wetter to get the bigger air holes.
I think I let my dough overproof so I will stop it before it gets too big.
Add in any extra ingredients after the first proofing and not in the begining as I have done in the past.
And finally and probably most importantly I will read the recipe from start to finish including tips!!!

One of my better bread attempts.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Day 3

Do I really need another cookbook?  I'm not sure I do.  But I do love buying them so and looking at their colourful spines in their cabinet adding colour to its interior makes me smile.  It is true that I have on occasion bought a cookbook on the colour of its spine.  Well I can't help being me.  I did buy Darina Allen's "Forgotten Skills of Cooking" last weekend on the say so of MsMarmite, who happened to make a remark about the book while chatting to me about Outstanding in the field - It's basically an open air lunch, hosted by a local chef, in a picturesque setting.  MsMarmite is off to the one in Ballymaloe in Co. Cork and me to Trealys Farm in Wales. 

To use Darina's book just as a flourish of colour is really rather unfair because besides its wonderful vivid green cover, it is rather good and I can see why she won a prize for it.  There aren't loads of pictures and the ones there are are simple.  I would describe it as an earthy book with no nonsense.  Nothing has been cooked from the book so far, but it did remind me of a dish that my mum used to cook.  Boiled ham with cabbage & mash in a soupy gravy - very simple but divine.

Unfortunately my image doesn't give it the justice it deserves.  I shall be practicing my food styling skills for any future shots.