Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Happy Easter

It is Easter!!!! The kids are off school, the house is a tip and I have loads of work to get through before we go to Cornwall for the long weekend. Happy holidays! I can't wait, but am in that trying-not-to-panic-mode, about how much I have to sort out before we leave. On my to do list is buying my daughters Easter eggs (although I am sure chocolate eggs have reached Cornwall, I like to be prepared). I want to get them these ones from the Co-op. There's popping candy in the middle - to blow their little minds - and they've had five star reviews from everyone.
My not-so-little-anymore daughter is 6 whilst we're away, so I'm going to make her this carrot cake as her birthday/Easter cake. I won't tell her it has carrot in it - I am not foolish - and will decorate it with a surfeit of fluorescent chicks and fake bunnies to distract her from its vegetablely-ness.
Carrot cake keeps quite well, so it should last the car journey to Cornwall. I will hide it in the boot of the Volvo estate I bought today as part of my final descent in to middle age, which I fear will end with me moving to Tunbridge Wells and only buying trousers with elasticated waists*. It has a huge boot - big enough to hide a dead body in - so I am sure I will be able to squirrel away a tupperware cake box and her present of some extremely sparkly Lelli Kelly shoes (please, don't judge me) without her noticing. Happy Easter everyone.

* Quite a good idea, actually.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Kale crisps

A few years ago if you had told me that kale crisps would have been one of my favourite snacks, I would have scoffed in your face. Now the only thing I am scoffing is kale crisps.
Kale is the IT vegetable of the moment and and quite right too. It is full of vitamins and iron and other things that help you stay strong and healthy. My friend swears by starting the day with a kale smoothie, but if that sounds a little extreme try these crisps instead. They are nicer and cheaper than anything you can buy in the shops and a great way to eat one of those five - or should that be seven? - a day.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The chickens are dead. Warning… this is a miserable post.

Our beautiful, beautiful chickens Cherry (left) and Ginger were killed on Thursday night by a fox, almost two years to the day since we brought them home. I can't tell you how sad it has made me. The first thing I did every morning was poke my head out of the window into the garden to see if they were up and it was oddly cheering watching them pecking around, having a drink of water and scrabbling at the gate, so desperate to get into the garden where they spent most of the day.
On Friday morning, I had to look twice to work out they weren't asleep, but indeed dead. A fox had tunnelled under the coop's wire security skirt, under their perch and bitten their heads off in the night. Sorry, if that sounds graphic and violent and I know that foxes kill chickens, but soft Londoner that I am, I can't believe it still.
Anyway, less of their death and more of their lives. Cherry was called Cherry because she liked pecking under the cherry tree. Ginger was called Ginger, because she was, well, ginger. My children named them and they have nothing if not great imaginations.
They were a city-garden friendly hybrid called Gingernut Rangers. Majestic birds, who nonetheless, irritated me continually by their sheer determination to eat every single flower in the garden and then poo out the remains all over the patio. I eventually divided the garden in two with a retractable fence so that the flowers in one half at least, would not be massacred.
Their days were spent devising ways - Great Escape style - to breach the fence for renegade petal-eating missions. But - devoid of flowers though my garden was - I loved them and found their presence soothing. We have two cats too, but there was no doubt who was boss. The chickens. After I removed their bodies, both cats sat outside the empty coop trying to make sense of where their adversaries were. It felt like a feline vigil.
I never got over the wonder of their eggs. Size-wise it is approximately the equivalent of us giving birth to a watermelon EVERY SINGLE DAY,  but they did it without complaint, hypnobirthing CDs or gas and air. Just a few clucks. Respect.
I am aware for someone who has greedily eaten chickens for most of their life, my complete devastation at their deaths is OTT, but they represented more than just birds for me. They were pets too, as well as part of my attempt to re-connect with the food that I eat, where it comes from and what a wonder it all is.
So good bye Cherry and Ginger. You will be missed, but not forgotten. The only remaining question is do we get some more? The kids are desperate for new ones, but I am not sure it is fair. I can't stop thinking about Mr Fox.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Cottage pie topped with cauliflower cheese

Hold the mash! This cottage pie (beef not lamb!) forgoes the potato in favour of cauliflower cheese. It is utterly delicious and a great take on an old tradition. Try it!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Portobello Mushroom Burger

I love a veggie burger. When I was officially a vegetarian (admittedly only for about six months in 1990) all I ate bar potatoes and cheese were Tesco spicy Mexican bean burgers. They still make them all these years later and to be honest there is still an occasional place in my life for them. But these days, more often than not, I make my own. Bean and veggie burgers can be slightly long-winded (pun, intended) to make (although Innocent has a fabulous recipe in their cook book) so if I fancy a burger, but don't want to eat meat or spend too long chopping, I make these Portobello Mushroom burgers.
Portobello mushrooms are flat, wide, meaty and very very tasty.

Serves: 1
Takes: 20m including 15m cooking time

1 portobello mushroom (make sure it's clean - wipe with damp paper towel)
olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt pepper
handful grated cheese (Cheddar or goat's is nice)
burger bun

First snap off the mushroom stalk and discard it. Then make sure the mushroom is clean before marinading it in a small bowl with a splash of good olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, a sprinkling of thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. If you have time, marinade for 15m. Whilst this is happening, pre-heat the oven to 160c fan/180c/gas mark 5. Then place the mushroom in a baking tray in the oven and cook for 10m. Grate or crumble the cheese, and when 10m is up place it in the mushroom cavity for a final 5m of cooking. Next lightly toast your burger bun, spread some guacamole on the bottom, place the mushroom on the top followed by the remainder of the bun and eat straight away (it goes soggy very quickly). Delicious. Cheap. Easy. Lovely with sweet potato wedges on the side. Meat-free fun in a bun.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Cauliflower cheese

Regular readers will know about my love affair with the cauliflower, particularly when it has been roasted and lightly charred in the oven. It tastes much more cauliflowerly than boiling it and is perfect for smothering in cheese sauce. Here is a recipe of me making it. It is just over three minutes long and Claire literally does not get a word in edgeways. It is all about me and the cauliflower. Sorry, sis. There are some great comments underneath including a link to an American blog - Mom, What's for dinner?  - recipe for pizza bases made out of riced cauliflower. I think I am in love. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Kitchenless Cook

It's the middle class conundrum.
a) Do you move to a house you can't really afford which is actually a total mess and spend the rest of your life desperately trying to make it inhabitable?
b) Or settle for a perfectly decent house which is a bit smaller (and in much better nick) than the house of your dreams.
It's a, of course! Why do you think Grand Designs et al are so popular? My husband has had to talk me out of putting offers on really terrible houses which I have wanted to buy just because they are run down. They may be more expensive, pokey and in horrible locations, but for some reason nothing quickens my heart more than peeling paint and a house with a lot of potential but not much else.
This doesn't explain our move last year though. My husband talked me out of hanging on for a house owned by a hoarder and probably only held up by the endless carrier bags he kept in each room. Instead we went for a more sensible option. We thought. But in the intervening year we have discovered that this house is probably in equally bad nick, it was just hidden.
The kitchen was always rubbish. It had the aura of a 1980s Mexican restaurant about it - terracotta tiles, strange half walls, no cupboard space. It was a challenging kitchen in which to write a recipe book. But now it is just a hole in the ground. Ha! That will teach it. But that's not due to my vindictive nature (well, may be a little bit) but because we are having an extension. Two little words for something as momentous and painful as root canal work.
It's not the dust that's killing me. Or washing up in a bath for three months. Or the kids' endless requests for porridge in the morning (just eat you coco pops and be happy like any normal kid!). It's the money. It makes every other extravagance in your world fade. A £200 blow-out meal? Nah. Try £6k on some electrics. Buying lunch from Pret everyday? Try £8k on additional steel.
What's this got to do with food? Um, nothing. But it's making me feel marginally better, and it's my blog . . .
But, neatly bringing it back to food, I was thinking I should do The Kitchenless Cook's recipe book. Having an extension is such a rite of passage, I reckon there would be a market for it. We have a microwave, slow cooker and George Foreman Grill. We also have a really clever little electric hob you can plug in. That's what we use mainly. In fact I've hardly used the microwave (except for the occasional eating up of soup) or the slow cooker. The George Foreman Grill has been a revelation though! We've cooked salmon steaks on it, and chargrilled courgette. Delicious.
But I dream of having a kitchen. I dream of knocking up something gorgeous and healthy in my beautifully lit and very re-inforced (all that steel, see) kitchen. It's been so long since I've had a functional kitchen I can hardly remember what it's like. But in the meantime I have to plan what it will be like (forgive this rambling post) and I need to make decisions about ovens - what should I get? Any suggestions?
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