Tuesday, 27 October 2009

rigatoni with pork & fennel sausage

The fact we're experiencing a sudden warm spell has put the mockers on my planned week of experimental 'harvest' dinners. The potato & mushroom stew last night benefited from the chill in the air, but tonight's balmy evening means I don't fancy cooking duck and olive casserole. Well, that and the fact it takes almost two hours... maybe tomorrow?

Instead I opt for a second sausagey meal in a week, this time from the House of Billy G: rigatoni with pork and fennel sausage. Sadly I can't get pork & fennel, so I have to make do with leek & chive, but it's still a pretty gutsy dish. Definitely a keeper, and has it has an interesting twist with the addition of wilted rocket.

rigatoni with pork & fennel sausage - Bill Granger, Holiday, p100

Monday, 26 October 2009

cep & potato stew

First day home alone whilst the anas and mtb are on the Isle of Wight for their quarterly procession around the cultural homeland, and the week of experimental dinners gets off to a wobbly start.

I'm a bit sleepy, and frankly I'm more than tempted to simply reheat the left-overs of last night's southern sausage stew. However sense prevails and I give the mushroom stew from November's Delicious a spin. Although obviously it does presuppose you're able to go mushrooming for 400g of ceps without a) poisoning yourself or b) getting bored. I opt for a punnet of chestnut mushrooms. They are organic though.

Anyway here's a top tip - even though you want to think your cep (organic chestnut mushroom) & potato stew is lovely and rustic, cooking it in the Le Creuset is completely wrong as everything burns to the bottom. It's bloody marvellous despite the fact it's molten nature burned seven layers of skin off my tongue a full five minutes after I dished up.

No pictures I'm afraid, the anas have taken the camera - booo! - but I'll definitely be having it again, so maybe next time?

cep & potato stew - Delicious, November 2009, p81

Incidentally, are November issues the best ones? Discuss...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

parsi lamb curry

For the first time in aaaaages, we've got a weekend with nothing on and can relax and take it easy, so the anas immediately book in a haircut. As is the way with all lady haircuts, this takes up 4000 hours and yet - AND YET! - still requires us to return later that day because Toni (or Guy - I'm not judging) failed to remove the dye properly. It does look lovely though...

Anyway, hair aside we spend the day running around with a the traditional trip to the duck pond and the farmer's market where I saw two things of note:
1. loads of cavalo nero - gaaaah!
2. a frenchman called Johnny F, dressed in a breton shirt and beret, selling ropes of garlic and onions from his bike. He was brilliant, and gave the milos the gift of a shallot. Mild stereotypical racism, sense of humour plus free shallots equals my new favourite thing.

I also bought a silicone slotted spoon to complete my birthday ladle, which is a triumph when it comes to dishing up tonight's curry - Atul Kochhar's Parsi Lamb Curry. I don't even know what a Parsi is...

Food of the Milos
After a couple of days of not much eating recently, the monkey has a good day of trencherman action: Poached egg on toast (and half of mine) for breakfast, babyccino, veggie rabbits and mash for lunch, and defrosted leek and potato soup for dinner. Plus the usual intake of humzinger, pear, apricots and raisins.

parsi lamb curry - Atul Kochhar, Delicious,

Thursday, 22 October 2009

chicken with cavalo nero

Still no cavalo nero, so this time I decide to use the other half of the savoy cabbage we had with the steak on Tuesday. It's a much more successful as a replacement than kale, but I'm counting the days till the black cabbage finally reappears...

chicken with cavalo nero
chicken with cavalo nero - bill granger, Simply Bill, p38

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

pumpkin & feta risotto

No pictures of the risotto, sorry got distracted by the monkey and his cafe-style blackboard:

At least we know what he had for dinner...

Food of the Milos
Jacket spud & Ladymeer
Cox's apple chips
Avocado flakes
Cherie tomatoes
Jus D'Elderflower

pumpkin & feta risotto - Donna Hay, Instant Cook, p66

Saturday, 17 October 2009

grilled chicken & chips

Day two of Operation ana, brenda and claire go to Bath for the Weekend dawns bright and early. Well b-jamin' wakes fairly early which wakes the milos but curiously I don't have to trudge down the stairs to get him milky as he's happy to roll around the bed and look out of the window at the sheep on the ham.

In the morning we go to the park and then head into Tewks for as close an approximation of our usual Saturday routine as we can get; babycino in a coffee bar (supplemented by a smartie biscuit), then we pop into my favourite second hand bookshop in the world where I buy Bond, Georgette Heyer, The Mabinogion and King Arthur, and the milos stack up all the John Grisham's in the alleyway. Finally we have a chat to the town cryer who somebody thinks is Captain Feathersword, then we go to talk to the silly sheep on the Ham. Suitably knackered by the ovine activity, mtb goes to bed and b-jamin gets up in time for davis to take him to the rugby club.

Dave plays the first half, and I make it to play the second half with dt and eddie babysitting, although seeing as I gave away the match-winning penalty they might rue the day I was invited. At the club the big men drink BEER and the little men run about like loonies and eat our chips, beans and sausages.

Back home we put the monkey's to bed between 1800 and 2130 hours and retire to a brilliant grilled chicken in peri-peri sauce by the daviss. He's not all that though because we've only got one can of guinness between us, and the off licence was closed. Bugger.

Food of the Milos
Banana, several different smoothies and apricots for breakfast, babycino and smarties for a snack, followed by cheese, tomatoes and marmite sandwiches for lunch. He didn't really eat the lunch, but he DID eat most of my chips and sausage at the rugby club. For dinner he had an organic baby chilli which had a surprising kick to it.

Friday, 16 October 2009

thurs: out / fri: curry in Tewks

Thursday night I'm at the Comedy Showcase launch at C4-towers, so my diet is mainly free booze, and teeny-tiny canapes. The rare beef ones were the best, and the spring rolls were the worst, but there's only so many mini-beef croutons in the world, and not enough to fill me up, so I switch to Guinness. Lovely to see the Press ladies again though...

Friday night is the start of Operation ana, brenda and claire go to Bath for the Weekend. Sadly spandy and k-cats have dropped out, so it's a depleted London posse who make their way to Tewkesbury for a mini-cup of tea/glass of vino before heading off and leaving the MEN in charge!

We get a take away from the Nirala and watch rugby on Sky whilst the mini-MEN sleep.

It's a good ending of the first day of Operation ana, brenda and claire go to Bath for the Weekend.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

pasta with cherry tomato sauce

With a weekend in Tewkesbury looming, and a bunch of stuff likely to go off unless we have three meals tonight, I decide to load up the freezer with some stew and soup, as well as cooking tea.

The plan is to cook my favourite stew - Beef Stew with Pumpkin - from the classic Delicious November 2007 issue, plus Bill's carrot-winning spiced carrot soup, and pasta with cherry tomato sauce. All at the same time. Behold!

full hobI can't believe the only photo I've got for the pasta comes from April, and it's a dish I cook pretty much most weeks. That's slack. Anyway, we eat the pasta, milo has some soup and stew in the fridge, and the rest goes in the freezer for 'a rainy day'.

pasta with cherry tomato sauce - Donna Hay, The Instant Cook, p58
beef stew with pumpkin - Delicious, November 2007, p78
spiced carrot soup - Bill Granger, Feed Me Now, p144

my birthday

36 - I don't so much have the key in the door as one foot in the grave. Still, is there any better way to start the half-way point in your life than with a beautiful sunny-yet-brisk day, breakfast made for me, three lovely cards (damn you postal workers), and a silicone ladle?

I even manage to keep it a secret at work until I casually wonder whether anybody wants to come down the pub for a birthday drink? God they hated that! The icing on the cake is the lovely Jude, Judy, Judith babysits for us and me and the anas go to The Idle Hour for a birthday dinner.

I had crab salad followed by one of their burgers, and the anas had stuffed mushrooms followed by pasta. Sadly the food wasn't as good as last time - it was a bit cold, there was only one person working so it took aaaages to get served, and it was all bit bland. BUT at least I got to go out with the anas on a pseudo-date.

roasted cod on spiced puy lentils

Tonight we're going to both battle obesity and seeing as we haven't had it for almost a month, eat fish. In fell swoop - c'est incroyable!

roasted cod on spiced puy lentilsThe lentils really make the dish - they're really beefy I suppose, with a good hit of chilli and garlic. I've also learned from last time and now we have the fish dish within a day of arrival. Frankly in this weather I can't be in the garden bleaching bins. Also, as a dish, it feels much more right in autumn/winter than spring/summer.

baked cod & lentils - Delicious, Eat your way to Better Health supplement, Lord knows when.

lamb & orzo bake with cherry tomatoes

It's Sunday, and today we do one of those peculiarly 'London' things to do - the sort we always talk about doing because we live here, but never actually bother with; we go to Hyde Park for a promenade.

With k-cats and fieeeeeeeeen, plus a small blonde bombshell on his new scooter in tow, we find ourselves at the most amazing, free, play park. Frankly, with a giant pirate ship, tee-pees, tree walks, slides, tunnels and the Lord knows what, I don't think the Princess of Hearts died in vain!

Knackered out from crawling through tunnels, the monkey conks out in the car. This is a good thing because I decide to drive out the autumnal drizzle by cooking lamb & orzo bake for dinner, which takes a good two to three hours.

lamb & orzo bakeTo be honest, it's fairly easy to cook but it's easier if you're not having to rescue your ladles, knives, lambs, paprikas, pots, chopping boards and magnets from small people wanting to 'help'. With episode two of Emma looming at 20.00, I start whilst he's having his afternoon snoopy-snooze, but typically it's still only just ready.

lamb & orzo bake - The Black Book!

tomato curry

Another Saturday, another curry. As it turns out this is the first 'proper' meal I have all day which in retrospect explains possibly my worst game of rugby for the past ten years in which I knocked on pretty much everything, and managed to miss almost every tackle coming my way.

It seems a day spent learning to drive, entertaining the milos in the park, then cycling to Isleworth *without* actually eating anything means you play like a tuberculosis-ridden chimney-sweep suffering from dropsy. V poor, but the curry was good!

tomato currysources
tomato curry - Simon Hopkinson, Delicious, November 2007, p86

experimental pasta

The anas are out with Hanne, Kendra and Ellie tonight so I'm home alone with nowt on telly and half a bag of kale in the fridge - I know how to live life on the edge.

As it is I watch the rugby on iPlayer and attempt to use the kale up in an experimental pasta dish which also handily enough uses up the last of the orecchiette up.

experimental pastaTo be honest, it's not that great. Kale's just rubbish isn't it? And orecchiette is possibly the worst pasta ever; under-cook it and it's like hard biscuits, over cook it and it's like gloopy cotton balls. Awful! Lucky I was a weeny-bit drunk.

experimental pasta - from my MIIIIIIIIIND! Although it was a close approximation of orecchiette with broccoli, from Delicious.

Friday, 9 October 2009

chicken, tomato and fennel casserole & leek and potato soup

I've had my eye on this dish for ages, and tonight seems as good a night as any to try it out. Despite the slightly controversial inclusion of fennel (although I love it), it's not a particularly memorable dish.

I mean it's okay, it's nice but it's hardly a taste sensation which is odd given it's got orange peel, smoked paprika, saffron, fennel and honey in it. Maybe that's why I'm disappointed with it, I expected more.

chicken, tomato and fennel casseroleAnyway, whilst the chicken is casseroling away I also take time to knock up some leek & potato soup for lunch this week, and a couple of portions for the monkey in the freezer.

leek & potato soupsources
chicken, tomato and fennel casserole - Bill Granger, Every Day, p132
leek & potato soup - Delicious Magazine

chicken with cavalo nero

For some reason - despite the fact it's supposed to be in season now - cavalo nero is impossible to find (in Waitrose/Ocado) at the moment. Having done some internet research I discover the Cavalo Nero isn't just a cabbage, but a type of kale. So, we have it with kale instead.

chicken with cavalo nero
It's not exactly a disaster, but it ain't great. The kale is too irony and tough to be wilted with lemon juice. Lucky the smallest bag you can buy is 250g eh? Balls.

chicken with cavalo nero - Bill Granger, Simply Bill, p38

keralan fish curry

keralan fish curry

keralan fish curry - Delicious, February 2009, p83

beef carbonade take 2

It's been a busy weekend and I can't be bothered to cook...

beef carbonade
beef carbonade - THE Black Book

milo's birthday - photos to come

A beautiful day for a beautiful monkey, sunday and mtb's second birthday is a beauty!

We wake up at an unusually decent time, and the three of us have tea (and milk) in bed whilst opening some presents and cards. We only open books in bed so it's all quite relaxed and nice.

After books we go into the flag-bedecked front room for the rest of his presents and breakfast before kayosaurus, mikeplodocus and amelia jamelia cecilia cordelia ophelia come up. Predictably he's more interested in the wrapping than the toys, but he at least likes the balloons - particularly the 'enormous' balloon.

Today's birthday treat is a trip on the train to the London Aquarium, where we meet Spandy, Ogregory, Harald and the newly-blonde Cerys. Everybody plays nicely, I think the Shark Walk came at just the right time, and we even managed to have a mini-picnic underneath the London Eye before everybody has to head home.

We have to be back at the flat for the arrival of my mum, Dan and Dylan. Mum brilliantly comes up with the goods and makes as close an approximation of the owl cakes I used to have for my birthday as 25 years, one house move and the onset of senioritis will allow. She even has a 'spare' cake just in case - that's being a mum for you!

And so a little blond boy goes to bed one year older, slightly fuller of cake than I would've liked, but still conks out immediately, despite not having his afternoon nap. A brilliant day indeed!

finn's christening

A busy weekend kicks off early today with Fiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeen's Christening, followed by monkey's birthday tomorrow. Who said weekends were supposed to be relaxing?

We get a cab to St Mary's Church in Hampstead for the Christening. Somewhat improbably, we're the first people there by about 15 minutes. Even more improbably they've got a box of books just inside the door, and hidden beneath a pile of junior bibles is a copy of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear? So somebody is entertained. Until the service starts.

Consequently whilst Fiiiiiiiiiieeeen is loaded up with Catholic guilt and the anas renounce Satan, we're down the hill looking at the graves of Constable, and Philadelphia Austen. He quite liked the Angels, and the wooden beetle somebody had carved in the graveyard though, so it wasn't entirely disastrous.

Afterwards we have a brilliant long and late lunch at About Thyme, the restaurant Brian has part-ownership of: breads and olive oil, followed by piquillo peppers stuffed with wild mushrooms and goat's cheese (I think), roast beef and potatoes, spiced apple crumble for pudding, christening muffins and a surfeit of fine red wine. Fine wine, good company - what more do you need to while away a grim and cold Saturday?

We don't need any dinner by the time we get home, so monkey has his milk and goes to bed and we rug up and wrap presents/blow up balloons ready for the morning.

curry with Kate and Rob(in)

What's the point of Friday nights if not to invite friends over and have a curry? Admittedly I didn't cook tonight, but I did buy a lot of Badger Beer (and I'd had one or two fresheners at the Friday Night bar at work) so I'm more than happy to let Tiffin Box take the load.

Tonight Kate and Rob(in) come over and whilst we *do* learn slightly more about them biblically than we did before, this was off-set by excellent drunken silliness and a brilliant new side-dish Kate ordered: Brinjal Bartha - aubergines baked in olive oil and finished in a light sauce. Mmmmmm

The anas had mild old fashioned chicken curry, which has become her stock dish, and I had medium achari lamb, which has become my stock dish. I'd love to know what the quartered fruit stones are in it, they're slightly sour but I'm thinking maybe mango?

Anyway, it was an excellent night with only minimal real-ale-curry-bottom-burp repercussions in the morning.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

beef carbonade

We're edging closer to 'stew' weather and for ages I've had my eye on this recipe from the magical black book. No idea where it comes from, by it's relative position in the black book and the surrounding recipes I'm going to guess NZ-era Delicious. So Bill Granger, or Donna Hay or even Nigella as I remember she seemed to appear loads.

Anyway, I've never cooked it, and with a bag of potatoes slowly mouldering in the veg bowl, and the lure of beer being a key ingredient we have it tonight.

However I'm being slightly disingenuous to suggest I cooked it tonight. In fact I cooked it last night, letting it simmer away for two-three hours whilst we had pasta. Which meant all I had to do tonight was get in, stick the oven on for an hour whilst we put monkey to bed, and make the mash. Naturally we still ate at midnight, but a smallish moral victory was won I think.

Food of the Milos
Another Julia day, and this time he has his dinner there because the anas have started to learn French after school (although she immediately bails on the first lesson): cheerios, apricots and raisins for breakfast, loads of rice cakes as snacks, capelletti pasta with tomato sauce and fromage frais for lunch, and chicken, mash, veg and mango for dinner.

beef carbonnade - the black book

spaghetti with garlic and spinach

Because I'm running behind (a week behind to be precise) I can't quite remember what's happening here. I know yet another week of classic Midsomer has been ruined by some shite chav ball, and looking at what we had I can only presume we're at the end of the shopping week, hanging on in for the next delivery. To be honest though, left-over spinach only goes two ways in our house - chopped and in the freezer for the spicy meatballs, or into this garlic and pasta concoction.

spaghetti with garlic and spinachAccording to the accompanying pull-quote, Billy G uses spelt or wholewheat pasta because he 'really enjoys the nuttiness', which is obvious shorthand for 'totally not gay'.

Food of the Milos
He's at Julia's today, and for the second Wednesday running he refuses to go to sleep in the evening. It's not that he's being naughty of difficult, he's just not tired enough, so we let him run amok for a bit before he decides he's sleepy and goes to bed. This energy might be fuelled by the following: cheerios, raisins, apricots, toast and Phili. Pasta bolognaise for lunch, followed by grapes, and then pasta (again) for dinner because I didn't plan very well.

spaghetti with garlic and spinach - Bill Granger, Every Day, p98

Monday, 5 October 2009

minced turkey with thai basil

Experimental cookery madness tonight whilst Gok celebrates the country's bangers. Somewhere in the dim distant Delicious past, there was a weird recipe involving minced pork (I think) and lettuce leaves. We had it when were living in Lacy Road, but can I find the recipe now? Can I buggery, and the search on their website is terrible...

Anyway there's a similar recipe in the October issue so as the old and fat are getting their bits out for ana's entertainment I'm starting the first of my two meals of the evening.

minced turkey with thai basilI say 'two meals', but what I really mean is the first of two large helpings of the same dinner. Basically it's too easy to strip off lettuce leaves and help yourself as you plate up. Far too easy but on the other hand, what are you going to do with a third of a gem lettuce? Exactly!

Food of the Milos
MTB is in a funny-amusing mood at the moment. Rather than going to sleep he wants to stay awake and wear himself out spinning around in the front room OR lurk in the kitchen watching our dinner being cooked and claiming 'Milo eat whatever we're cooking'. In last night's case, 'Pie', and tonight he gets his wish. Pie!

minced turkey with thai basil - Delicious, October 2009, p126

Thursday, 1 October 2009

chicken and sweet leek pie

For one reason or another we're all knackered today. Okay, so it's a Monday but we're in deeper comas than usual for the beginning of the week.

Just as well dinner is half-cooked even if I still have pull the left-over meat off the chicken carcass. With the leeks, bacon and thyme stewing away slowly on the hob, I've got time to bath the milos whilst ana sorts his room out, before we put him down and the pie in the oven. An hour and half later (which works out as the first three episodes of Persuasion on podcast), we feast on MASSIVE portions of pie.

chicken and sweet leek pieAmazingly I don't need the DVD anymore, I can do it all from memory, and in an extra twist this pie has added (left over) courgettes. Get me.

Food of the Milos
As there is no swimming today, the milos and anas have a busy day of visiting ahead of them. Swanning about with Beth and K Kats is broken up by a lunch of fish fingers, the default level of snacks, and spicy carrot soup I made yesterday. Sadly the soup isn't popular amongst the under twos of the house, but until they are cooking they can zip it.

chicken and sweet leek pie - Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Christmas Show 2008.

little mash pies & roast chicken

Another beautiful day and we've got plans. Because Fiiiiiiieeeeeeeeen's Christening is next Saturday, we've got to do all milo's birthday shopping today. As he needs to be out of the way, me and him head to Putney Leisure Centre to go swimming, and the ana's go on to Putney to buy his presents.

After an hour of whooshing down the elephant slides, we head home and brilliantly he sparks out in the back of the car. With him asleep we've got loads of time on our hands so I try an experimental brunchy-pie thing you cook in muffin trays. I suppose the mash is the most labour-intensive bit of it, but a top tip is to get a really garlicky sausage for maximum flavour. We had Toulouse Sausages, which seemed to tick a lot of boxes, mainly marked 'Garlic'. The only thing I was missing was The Observer and a hearty ale. I suppose it *was* only lunchtime.

little mash piesPost-snooze we head into Sheen for a large Italian Ice Cream from Trente, where the milos gets to practise his Italian - Bongiorno, Ciao Ciao, Belissimo etc. He has vanilla and half of ana's lemon sorbet, but luckily he's less keen on my cherry ice cream.

Planning ahead for the week, we have Simon Hopkinson roast chicken and salad for dinner so we can have pie with the left-overs tomorrow night.

roast chickenAs happens, in another burst of use-stuff-up energy whilst the chicken is doing it's thing., I also manage to cook another batch of the spiced carrot soup for lunch this week. Lor' Bless you Bill Granger, and all ten of your definitely-not-gay fingers.

Food of the Milos
Toast and marmite for breakfast, then a wide variety of snacks after swimming - raisins, humzingers, grapes etc. No lunch as he'd conked out, ice cream in the afternoon and then, amazingly he ate a little mash pie, pancetta and all! Man he's a greedy guts.

little mash pies - Jill Dupelix, Delicious, November 2007, p13
roast chicken - Simon Hopkinson, Roast Chicken and Other Stories, p36
spiced carrot soup - Bill Granger, Feed Me Now, p144