Sunday, 31 October 2010

fragrant chicken stew

After last week's pumpkin picking, today is about one thing and one thing only - Hallowe'en.

Our road has a very active parents group who run an organised Trick or Treat every year, and after the fun he had last year it's all Milo has gone on about since his birthday. However, there's a whole (rainy) day to get through before we can carve pumpkins, make gingerbread bat biscuits and run up and down the street doing evil laughs.

As the weather is so bad we end up going swimming for most of day, before heading home (via Waitrose to get a good supply of 'treats') to make some gingerbread bat biscuits. Initially we did a batch using the dinosaur cutters Kiki, Brian and Finn bought him for his birthday but due to either an error in the dough or their proximity in the oven, we end up with basically a big slab of slightly bendy gingerbread. The bat cutter worked much better, but they were still a bit floppy.

Sadly no pictures as we ate them all, aided by Ana who returned from the country hungover and tired, just in time to carve pumpkins and dress up the little boy as a "grumpire"...

I was particularly proud of our pumpkins this year. I made a funny/happy one...

...and an evil one with horns...

Even some local (therefore posh and well brought up) girls said they were the best pumpkins they'd seen. Naturally I let them have more sweets.

Anyway as we're out on the streets, we've got dinner slowly ticking away in the oven - an experimental chicken stew from Delicious 2005, now in the Owl Book. It's fairly frugal as I make it using the legs and thighs from the birds I jointed when Matt & Virginie came for dinner, and the other key ingredient is a couple of fennel bulbs which I was suppose to use in a soup last week, but didn't.

I'm slightly concerned the presence of skin, bones and bacon would make this the ultimate anti-Ana stew, but it actually turned out to be brilliant. The skin and bones came away really easily when I dished it up, and the only down point seemed to be the fact it got cold fairly quickly. So much so we both had to microwave it, and those of you who know how tepid I eat my food will realise just how cold it must have been for that happen.

We are definitely having this again, especially if my brother's predictions of it being a iron cold winter come true. He's so earthy!

Food of the Milos
As you can imagine, a weekend of daddy time culminating in trick or treat means he's not had the most balanced of diets. Yesterday's crisps, sausages and chips were replaced today by lollipops, gingerbread, marshmallow ghosts and jelly bats/spiders/eyeballs.

Actually his diet wasn't that bad. After waking and getting up at 02.30 (thanks) he had the usual nibbles and porridge for breakfast, followed by dried fruit based snacks at the pool. It was only after a late lunch of macaroni cheese (my version), it was only after that it turned to custard.

fragrant chicken stew - Delicious 2005, now the Owl Book

Saturday, 30 October 2010

anglo-indian egg curry

Can you believe it, this is the second week running I'm home alone with a bottle of red wine and Pillars of the Earth? This time Ana is living it up in the country with Kendra, Lucy and Amanda, leaving me and the little boy with a day so busy I had him sparked out by around six-ish.

Dan and Dylan came up with Mum, and whilst she went "up west" to watch Mama Mia we pottered around the SW14 region: We spent an a couple of hours running like loonies around Palewell Park before hiding from the rain in The Treehouse. For lunch. Again.

Afterwards we caught the bus over to the rugby club for a couple of pints whilst the boys went mental on the AstroTurf carpet. Yes, AstroTurf carpet. By the time we get home, one little boy is very very tired and zonks out nestled on my shoulder halfway through Zog. Sadly even though the clocks are going back, I doubt I'm going get an extra hour in bed tomorrow.

So, an early bed means I can get experimental with a Tom Norrington-Davies egg curry. I know, it sounds weird but I've seen variations in loads of recipe books so it can't be that bad. And given I won't have to deal with any lemon-sucking faces from any spouses I may know, tonight is the ideal opportunity to try it.

In fact the combination of onions, celery and potato is quite earthy, and with some beautifully fragrant spices - cardamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin - it's a bit of a winner. In case you're wondering, the egg is only really a boiled egg garnish. I might try it with a Scotch egg next time...

Food of the Milos
It's busy, busy, busy today so he's mainly snacking - in fact it's a case of the usual all day: cheese, raisins, apples for pre-breakfast nibbles followed by porridge. Sausage, chips and broccoli for lunch, a packet of crisps at the club, several bottle of juice, and then some more cheese and apple for supper.

a very anglo-indian egg curry - Tom Norrington-Davies, Delicious circa 2005, The Parsley Book

Friday, 29 October 2010


With Ana off to the country for the weekend with Kendra, Lucy and Amanda, the door is open for another weekend of high quality experimentation. I've had my eye on a few recipes recently: Bill's duck and olive stew, a couple of different curries, pork belly, and of course now I've got my amazing tagine from Ana, some sort of chicken tagine, with preserved lemons and olives - mmmmmm!

Instead I have pasta'n'sauce from the fridge, and a bottle of wine whilst watching The Mentalist. Weeeelllll, we only had half a packet of mini broccoli in the fridge...

Sorry all

Food of the Milos
Up early and firing on all cylinders this morning, by the time we'd fallen out of bed (late) Kay has already filled him up with the usual pre-breakfast snacks. As Ana had already left for the country, and Kay and Mike were heading out the door when I got home, I have no idea what he had for second breakfast, nor lunch, but I do know what he had for dinner: Some more of Lucy's chicken curry and rice, and a yoghurt.

It was from a packet, there were no sources organic or otherwise

Thursday, 28 October 2010

book club: roast lamb and chocolate & apple crumble

Just a quick one tonight as we spent a delightful evening out at Beth's chi-chi Putney mansion for this month's Book Club. To be honest I'm a bit wary after last time's school-chat fueled disaster, so I bring a bottle of preventative Red and give Ana the car key, however tonight is a triumph!

First off everybody had read the book, Five Little Pigs, which is a first for a long time, and not only did we all like it, we could discuss it for at least half-an-hour. We even managed to get into an argument about Love in a Cold Climate. It's like Uni all over again, apart from the fact we never did this sort of thing at college, which would explain our appalling degrees.

Heavyweight literary discussion over, Beth serves up a beautiful leg of lamb with cubed roast potatoes and the biggest mini-broccoli I've ever seen, followed by a chocolate and apple crumble.

I'm stuffed and not a little drunk...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

pasta with cherry tomato sauce

I am very dull indeed tonight; no ideas and no real urge to think of any. Partially this is because I'm cold, and partially because the Poirot Hallowe'en special in on later. Classic D Hay pasta it is then - quick, tasty and easy.

However, weirdly, I think my ennui infected the spaghetti because it was distinctly meh!

Poirot was good though...

pasta with cherry tomato sauce - Donna Hay, Instant Cook, p58

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

mediterranean halloumi salad & carrot and cumin soup

Tonight is all about using up the rest of the sack load of carrots we bought back from t'country. The obvious choice is Bill Granger's Carrot and Cumin Soup, which swallows up all but six of the orange devils, who are spared for Milo (and Ana and Kay's) carrot and houmous intake this week.

With the soup bubbling away I turn my attention to possibly the most expensive salad ever prepared. Now normally the roasted peppers are the most expensive thing in Mediterranean Salad, but Ana manages to take this another level when she arrives home with not one but two M&S Halloumi cheeses, retail about £4 stirling PER cheese.

Now I don't mind using good quality ingredients (except when we've already got one halloumi in the fridge), but I draw the line at using the world's most expensive sheep and goat's milk cheese if it just sticks to the pan and sort of frazzles away:

Luckily they also mistakenly bought the world's most expensive bottle of Tuesday night wine to wash it all down with, so I was only mildly vexed.

Food of the Milos
The usual breakfast and snacky lunch (today with Finn and Kiki in tow), before kicking his father in the cobblers again by refusing to eat his cottage pie from last night. And this after I'd confidently saved his a couple of huge portions on the basis he always wolfs it down. He's dead to me.

mediterranean halloumi salad - Delicious, June 2010, p24
carrot & cumin soup - Bill Granger, Feed Me Now, p14

Monday, 25 October 2010

cottage pie

What to do with half a cow's worth of left-over roast beef, and a carrier bag full of carrots? Luckily for my plans it's not only cold and wet(ish), but Kay's here till Friday night, so using the formula "cold x many mouths = pie or stew", I make a rough approximation of Saint Hugh's Shepherd's Pie.

It's pretty good even if almost two hours cooking aren't quite enough to completely tenderise the cubes of beef, although I suppose that's what you get using roasted left-overs? It also made a handy dent in the carrot sack, and we used up half a cabbage from Sunday's haul, so all in all a good shout.

Food of the Milos
Kay's up early to deal with Little Lord Fauntleroy's breakfast nibble intake, before I make him porridge. For lunch he flexes his consumer muscles with Thomas the Tank Engine pasta shapes in tomato sauce on toast, but he's back to what he knows best for dinner: frozen Jamie's Southern Sausage Stew.

cottage pie - based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Shepherd's Pie recipe, from River Cottage Meat Book p504

Sunday, 24 October 2010

sunday roast: beef, cabbage, parsnip, potatoes, carrots, yorkshires and beetroot

A couple of weeks ago we made a vague plan to go pumpkin picking with Kendra, Brian and Finn which, for one reason or another, never seemed to happen. However, Kendra and Ana have been doing some long-range forecasting and fix on today to re-attempt the trip.

As it happens, it is a perfect day; bright, sunny and with a little bit of warmth left in the air. Garsons Farm is out in Esher, so it's also the perfect place to meet Kay and Mike, who are up for the half-term weekend. Not only that the kids loved the whole harvesting veg thing. Certainly Milo's favourite thing was hoiking up carrots and beetroot out of the ground, although he was fairly pleased with his haul of pumpkins.

Kendra's sudden zeal for pulling stuff out of the ground and pronouncing everything as "woody" firmly puts her into the 'children' category, and I have photo evidence to prove the point:

Having filled the cars with approximately 3 pumpkins each, 2Kg of carrots, 4Kg of beetroot, a red cabbage and one squashed French Bean, we headed to the local tres delightful pub called The Prince of Wales for a snacky lunch.

Despite forgetting Kay, Ana and my order, it was very good - a beautiful location, excellent wine and beer, a massive garden, good service and pretty tasty grub. The kids got served first (more sausages for Milo, fish for Finn although they pretty much shared) and Kendra and Brian had roasts. On the basis we were having roast beef later, we all had starters - Mike had a crab cake, Kay had asparagus wrapped in prosciutto whilst Ana and I shared a platter of pork pie, scotch eggs, bread and cheese. Eventually.

After last week's success at eating roast dinner together, we recreate it this time with beef and one of Milo's massive beetroots, which turned out to remarkably sweet once roasted:

There was loads to go around, and you might notice somebody missing from this shot which explains why we had masses left. Poor Mike, he had to catch a ferry, and because we spent so long in t'country he didn't have time for dinner. Sorry Mikeledocus!

Food of the Milos
A tired little boy had a great day today, probably helped by the fact he was fully fuelled throughout. There was the usual crumpet, some apple and raisins, and "chocolate" porridge (well porridge with Milo added), for breakfast. Numerous snacks during the day, *more* sausages and chips for a late lunch, plus some of Finn's fish, and then he ate most of his Sunday lunch: beef, cabbage, carrots, Yorkshire pudding and roast beetroot.

Sunday roast - me, I made it all up from a mish-mash of the last ten years

Saturday, 23 October 2010

leftover butternut squash macaroni cheese

It's a beautiful day today, so naturally we spend most of it trying to extract as much of a lay-in as possible from Milo, before reluctantly getting up and heading out into the Autumnal sunshine.

Ana has to buy Jude a present for her birthday tonight so whilst she heads over to Barnes Book Shop, me and Milo go to the playground for an hour or so before rendezvousing at the Pond. It quickly becomes clear we only have a 50% success rate (like I didn't know) - Ana has got the book she wants, but Milo turns up with a massive graze on his chin, having performed some sort of no-handed-no-looking stunt on his bike. I pretend not to know what she's talking about.

He's okay, but it does take a trip to new favourite place in Barnes - The Treat Garden - for some marshmallow snakes and a giant Victorian lollipop to cement this fact in his mind.

On the way back we dodge the rain and have a late lunch in The Treehouse. As she's out tonight, Ana only has the French Onion Soup, which was surprisingly nice. As the shopping isn't coming until 9ish, I have the burger, and Milo has a veritable forest of sausages and chips. It's possibly the best burger I've had from there, and I reckon they were the best sausages he's had. H-Bone Willoughby was also having a late lunch, so maybe her star power made the Chef go the extra mile?

With Milo conked out, and Ana living it up in a Thai restaurant in Wandsworth, I make do with left-overs and a costume drama double bill - Part 3 of Pillar's of the Earth, and the rest of Sense and Sensibility for "work". No pictures I'm afraid, but I *did* drink a whole bottle of Merlot on my own, which might explain something.

Friday, 22 October 2010

pumpkin and peanut curry

You know you're getting into the thin end of the month when you find yourself looking in a sparse cupboard wondering whether there is a recipe out there which uses three different sorts of pasta, some stem ginger, a can of tomatoes and a packet of dessicated coconut?

Fortunately the site of the crunchy peanut butter - usually the preserve of this summer's recipe du jour, Sesame Chicken Salad - reminded me of some sort of curry I'd seen during one of my Delicious culling and sticking sessions. Sure enough the Parsley Book comes up trumps. Not only that we're only missing lime juice to finish the dish off, which is never a key ingredient anyway. It's a garnish really...

... Or it's a quite essential element, used mainly to balance the cloying peanut butter and slightly dull pumpkin flavour of the dish, giving it a zesty lift I would imagine. Without it, the end effect is a bit like a woolly satay - it's nice, but it lacks some oompf.

I think it's one to be filed under "To be used in emergencies", and you'd definitely need the lime juice, and maybe some coriander.

Food of the Milos
It seems I don't know my son that well afterall. Having predicted last night he'd wolf down the macaroni cheese like no tomorrow, I return to discover he's spurned the lot. He didn't like the bacony-rosemary-y crust, he didn't like the cheese flavour and he didn't like the spiral pasta tubes. He's hateful. Instead of my lovingly crafted uber-Macaroni cheese, he only eats the steamed carrots and broccoli side-dish Ana makes, and a yoghurt. Philistine!

pumpkin and peanut curry - Delicious 2005, now in The Parsley Book

Thursday, 21 October 2010

butternut squash macaroni cheese with rosemary, bacon and parmesan

For some reason we have no default version of macaroni cheese, which is unlike most of the dishes we eat. I suspect there are usually a couple of variations kicking around for most of the recipes we cook, but whilst we may have dabbled with a few twists, we tend to have a go-to for each.

Incredibly we have at least four for macaroni cheese:
  1. A surprisingly dull Waitrose version with broccoli and cauliflower;
  2. Jamie Oliver's lovely if bank-breaking four-cheese version;
  3. A bog standard version using Annabel Karmel's tried-and-trusted cheese sauce, with a soupcon of RGB changes, namely adding mustard and parmesan to the cheddar mix;
  4. Grandma/Nanny made super-cheesy macaroni cheese;
Quite why this simplest of dishes resists order is beyond me, but tonight we add a fifth version to the list and - Praise Be! - we might have found a winner! Given it's from Delicious 2005, I'm mildly vexed it's taken me until now to find perfection, particularly as it's been sat under my nose all this time, but at least I can stop the hunt.

Like the Waitrose version it involves adding a veg, in this case mashed butternut squash which has been slowly boiled with cinnamon, garlic and a smidge of chilli flakes, but the winning tweak is the addition of the breadcrumb, bacon and rosemary crust. In a nod to Jamie's four cheese version, and also because I think *just* parmesan is a bit lightweight, I jazz it up slightly with some left-over marscapone and some of the Stinking Bishop Matt and Virginie left behind.

It is possibly the best one we've made yet. Even the newly-super-skinny Ana likes it which is odd because her cold only let's her taste "about 10% of the flavours" apparently.

Food of the Milos
Oh dear, this hacking cough he's developed seems to still be with us, usually I notice, between the hours of 0230 and dawn. Still he's chirpy this morning and manages to eat some apple and toast nibbles Ana makes him whilst I'm hiding in bed, and some porridge before going to nursery.

For dinner he has the choice of chilli bean stew (basically the left-over chilli bean burritos sans burrito), or some of Lucy's chicken curry I made on Tuesday night. Naturally he opts for the curry, proving he is our son after all, and I'm willing to put a bet on what he'll have tomorrow night if he's given the choice between the macaroni cheese and the chilli...

butternut squash macaroni cheese with rosemary, bacon and parmesan - Jamie's Quickies Recipe Card, Delicious 2005. Now it's in the Parsley Book

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

vegetable and chick pea tagine

I promise you this was on the menu *before* my amazing birthday present from Ana arrived, and if it's any consolation, I won't be using the tagine until I've prepared in the prescribed manner, by boiling some milk in it first. It seems mad doesn't it?

Anyway, it's the coldest night of the Autumn so far with a super crisp frost falling as I cycled back and an almost perfect but not quite full moon hanging overhead. I love bright winter days, and in fact spent another delightful lunchtime sat in the sun in Cavendish Square reading and eating (or drinking?) a steaming thermos of Bill Granger's curried parsnip soup. Coming home is a different story though, and I need to snuggle up to Milo for at least 10 minutes before I thaw out.

With him asleep and me defrosted, I knock up this quick tagine/stew from Ana's very favourite sports and fitness magazine.

It seems quite simple but the harissa and cumin really give it some oompf, and the carrot turns out to be quite sweet alongside the apricots. I really must get around to learning to cooking some flavoured cous cous though, I fear the plain stuff whilst good at sucking up gravy is just a bit, well, dull.

Food of the Milos
Despite having waking up all bunged up at 0200 this morning and coming into our bed, Monkey is in pretty good form on our way to Julia's. He at least slept rather than thrashed around, poking us and forcing us out of the bed, which probably explains why he's so chipper. We invent a song called "Meercats" on the way, which involves singing "Meercats" until one of us breaks and sings "snakes". I predict it'll be Christmas number one, in our house anyway.

At Julia's he has the usual apricots, cheerios, toast breakfast, followed by ham and eggs for lunch, but as he's a bit under the weather he doesn't eat much of either. Consequently he only feels like pasta for dinner, so Ana makes him Bill Granger pea, parmesan and pasta and he zonks out fairly quickly after I get back. Not that I'm boring, I hasten to add.

vegetable and chick pea tagine - Fiona Hunter, Zest Magazine. Now the Parsley Book

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

chilli bean burritos with sweetcorn salsa

I've gone slightly crazy tonight. Rather than drying off from the sodden cycle home, making a quick dinner and then relaxing in front of the TV with some wine, I end up making three lots of stuff: Bill Granger's Chilli Bean Burritos, a massive batch of Lucy's chicken curry using the left over chicken from Sunday dinner for Milo, and another Bill recipe for my lunch this week, curried parsnip soup.

At least Bill's burritos are fairly quick to make, so quick in fact I give the sweetcorn salsa a spin for the first time, and it's a pretty good accompaniment. Certainly an ace way to squeeze one more portion of veg onto the plate, between the extra cheese and creme fraiche.

For the record, I had six wraps and Ana had only two, which goes some way to explaining why she's such a skinny minny at the moment. Don't worry, I'll cook stews for the next four months to bring her back up to my size. Anyway, whilst we eat burritos I've got two other pots bubbling away on the hob.

Due to a slight admin error, in one is about two litres of Lucy's chicken curry. It is very tasty with a slight kick from the Tikka Masala curry paste we used (left-over from something or other), although I wonder whether he'll ever finish the six portions now in the freezer, as well as the one in the fridge?

In the other are two litres of curried parsnip soup, which I approach with some trepidation. Last time I made it I attempted to offset the lack of curry paste with my own unique combination of garam masala, curry powder and cumin. It was not a success, instead I created an acrid, throat-choking nightmare and had to bin the lot. It still makes me gag slightly when I think about it. This time *with* paste it's a honeyed, warming beauty - hurrah!

Food of the Milos
His cold seems to be getting worse at the moment, so after a night spent rolling around our bed moaning, he's not up for much breakfast. Some apple, raisins and a bit of crumpet is pretty much his lot until lunchtime, when Ana makes some boiled eggs and toast. After a run around the park he's much perkier and ready for a big bowl of fish curry, some more fruit and a yoghurt.

chilli bean burritos with sweetcorn salsa - Bill Granger, Every Day, p56
curried parsnip soup - Bill Granger, Holiday, p96
chicken curry - The Byzantine Mind of Mrs Brenda Baxentaylordale-Taylor

Saturday, 9 October 2010

stuffed tarragon chicken

It being the weekend - and a rugby weekend at that - we share the parenting duties today, before rendezvousing later at home to prepare for the arrival of the divine Matt and Virginie for dinner.

So whilst I spend the morning abortively trying to park at Brentford Fountains, before giving up and going to Richmond instead, Ana tidies and reclines at home. Then whilst her and Milo go to Zac's birthday party in Putney, I'm totally p'wn-ing the Esher backrow.

With monkey tucked up in bed, we put the Christmas knife skills to good use to joint and take the supremes off of two chickens for the stuffed tarragon chicken, and my usual knife action to cut up some pears.

I'm especially pleased I'd pretty much remembered how to joint the birds and whilst one (Ana's as she doesn't like skin) was a bit duff, the others were aces. Not only that all the thighs and drumsticks went into the freezer, and the two carcasses went into the fridge to make stock. However one of these two actions will come back to haunt me.

Tonight we start with Donna Hay's caramelised pear and rocket salad, which really benefits from leaving the roquefort out for a bit before crumbling over the pears...

caramelised pear and rocket salad
...Followed by the stuffed tarragon chicken (from Delicious)...

stuffed tarragon chicken
...chocolate raspberry torte (not homemade), stinking bishop cheese and biscuits and then more chocolate and half a bottle of sloe gin. No wonder the pictures are all a little blurry, but at least I got a picture of them this time:

Ana, Virginie & Matt
Despite their loveliness I find them really hard to cook for, and I always feel I have to raise my game, because every time we eat around theirs they do the full monty very very well. And they supply amazing cheese. Not that I don't love all your cooking special friends, just these two are the closest to proper chefs I know. Damn their eyes.

caramelised pear and rocket salad - Donna Hay, The Instant Cook, p44
stuffed tarragon chicken with cannellini bean stew - Delicious, March 2010, p46

Friday, 8 October 2010

tana ramsay's sausage casserole, with savoy cabbage and butter beans - recipe

Here you go Sarah, just for you - Tana Ramsay's sausage casserole! Surely it's summer there now though, and you no longer need casseroles?

tana ramsay's sausage casserole, with savoy cabbage and butter beans - recipe
Serves 3, plus three pots in the freezer for him later
Ready in about 1 hour

2 tbsp olive oil
400g sausages
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
55g cubed pancetta or bacon lardons
2 leeks, chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs, stripped
55g chorizo, cubed
410g can butter beans, drained
1 litre veg stock
250g mushrooms, sliced
1/2 a savoy cabbage, shredded

1. Gently heat the olive oil in a deep pan. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Add the onions and garlic, and fry until softened. Add the pancetta, leeks and thyme. Put in the chorizo and turn the heat up slightly so it sweats off some of the moisture. This will make the leeks and onions go orange. Or follow Brenda's advice, and ditch the chorizo for milk-based reasons, and use tomato puree.
2. Add the butter beans, stock and mushrooms. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Add the savoy cabbage - it may look far too much, but it does wilt loads. Stir through and leave to simmer for at least 25 minutes. Preferably longer.
4. Serve with lovely buttery mash.


balsamic and thyme steak

It's Friday night, and all we've got in the fridge is half a large savoy cabbage left-over from Tana Ramsay's sausage casserole. What to do, what to do, other than buy booze, chips and dips of course?

Inspiration hits on the way home, and I pick up some steak for a relatively healthy steak and mash dinner to accompany The Mentalist. It *must* be healthy because it's from a really old Delicious One Month Healthy Eating Plan.

balsamic and thyme steak
Now, whilst this plate looks marvellous Ana's plate is less successful, mainly because Sainsbury's fillet steak really isn't very good. It's quite tough, and gristly. Note to self there.

balsamic and thyme steak - Delicious, One Month Healthy Eating Plan Booklet, February 2007 - now the Skull Book. I really must take a picture of it

Thursday, 7 October 2010

peter gordon's baked squash with coconut cream, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, chillies and coriander

Wow - Look at these little beauties! Who can resist experimenting when the front of this month's Delicious comes resplendent with four stuffed squash oozing with a Thai-style stuffing? Not me, although it does take three or four days for Ana to forget I've got it planned. Serendipitously we have it whilst Saint Hugh is convincing some firemen to go vegetarian for a week.

peter gordon's baked squash with coconut cream, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, chillies and coriander
As it happens, I used to cook an HFW squash baked with gruyere and cream. Oooh, it was good, although terribly bad for the waistline. Anyhoo this version is infinitely lighter, and the zingy thai flavourings compliment the earthy squash really well.

I could only get small pumpkins this week, but I think Acorn or Onion squash would work much better. Even Ana liked it, and that includes my off-recipe inclusion of spinach. Maybe I'll try some recipes from the Peter Gordon book Brenda lent me now...

Food of the Milos
A glamorous continental breakfast at Julia's today of a chocolate croissant, followed by a hearty sausage, mash and veg for lunch. Crikey, that's two sausage-based meals in two days, he'll turn into one soon. Lucky he had some frozen meatballs and pasta for dinner - phew!

baked squash with coconut cream, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, chillies and coriander - Peter Gordon, Delicious, November 2010, p109

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

spinach, tomato and chick pea curry

Somewhere along the line this week (I suspect either Sunday or Monday) we seem to have skipped the projected moroccan lamb shanks, on the basis we're too knackered/tired to cook them for three hours. With a brand-spanking new Midsomer to look forward to, tonight is *not* the night for noodling in the kitchen.

The quickest thing left on the menu is the new-favourite-experimental spinach, tomato and chick pea curry. Which is perfect, even if Ana does contend I can't cook rice.

spinach, tomato and chick pea curry
She even ruins Barnaby's investigation by correctly predicting the incestuous relationships, and who murdered whom. Unusually this doesn't follow her usual method of suspecting everybody, and she gets it pretty much first time.

Food of the Milos
It's a Julia day today, so it's the usual cheerios, apricots and raisins breakfast at hers, before chicken and veg pasta after nursery. Back at home it's last night's Tana Ramsay-endorsed experimental sausage casserole. Frankly it was a triumph, including the cabbage, so we'll be having that again soon, although hopefully we'll have better luck with the mash.

spinach, tomato and chick pea curry - Waitrose Recipe Cards, Early September 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

tana ramsay's sausage casserole, with savoy cabbage and butter beans & bill granger's sweetcorn chowder

After two days of basically eating cake and sweets, we're back to normal. Albeit an experimental normality as tonight we're having a sausage casserole stuffed with cabbage, leek and mushrooms to see if we can expand Milo's veg intake beyond tomatoes, mini-versions of things, potatoes (particularly in chip format) and broccoli.

Naturally it contains one of his five-a-day sausage portions, but interestingly it also contains pancetta, chorizo, and butter beans. It comes from Tana's Family Cookbook, and it seems an ideal pre-buy test.

Things go swimmingly. You basically whack it all in the pan and leave it simmer, giving me plenty of time to make 2 litres of this week's lunch soup, Bill Granger's sweetcorn chowder, and still be ready to make mash in time to watch Whites:

sweetcorn chowder
However, for some reason whilst my potatoes go lovely and tender in the soup, in a shorter period of time, the ones bubbling away on the hob simply refuse to cocking soften. In the end, a full hour after I started them, I end up mashing them in the saucepan in the front room so I could watch TV. And they gave me a blister from the mashing. Lucky the stew was so divine, and with enough portions for us to have seconds, Milo to have some tomorrow, and put two pots in the freezer for him later:

sausage casserole, with savoy cabbage and butter beans
Food of the Milos
The post-birthday come down doesn't seem to him as hard as us. He has his usual breakfast (today with cheese), eggs and cake for lunch, and chicken stew with apple sauce and tarragon for dinner. Again, he's not amazed by it, but neither did he refuse it, so we'll count that as one in the bank to try again.

sweetcorn chowder - Bill Granger, Every Day, p246
sausage casserole, with savoy cabbage and butter beans - Tana Ramsay, Family Kitchen although I half inched it from Delicious circa 2005.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

sauteed chicken with cider & tarragon

It's day one of Milo's two-day birthday extravaganza, and because it's absolutely tipping it down we're already onto Plan B for the Family Birthday, erm day.

Not that he knows we originally planned to go the Wetland Centre's adventure playground of course, and the lure of playing in Eddie Katz with Amelia, Kayosaurus, Mikeplodocus and Matt and a large sack of wonderful presents is more-than satisfactory from his point of view.

Knackered from extensive running about like a loony, we've just got time for lunch at Strada before the McCarthy's have to head back to the Island, and the arrival of my mum who bears not only more gifts, but an amazing pirate treasure chest-themed cake she made:

milo and cake
Incroyable! It's an excellent end to a really good if knackering day - particularly for those of us who spent half of it stuck between two soft-play rollers, half way down a spongey castle.

With monkey in bed, and Ana wrapping presents and making party bags in the drawing room (although Ana does insist on calling it the lounge), I knock up another batch of our new favourite Waitrose-approved stews, sauteed chicken with cider and tarragon:

sauteed chicken with cider & tarragon
This time we *do* have it with tarragon, which definitely rounds the flavour out a bit more, and rather than double cream and cider we make it more Milo (and diet) friendly by using creme fraiche and apple juice. Once again, I make marvellous mash! The perfect accompaniment to Downton Abbey...

Food of the Milos
Over-excited by opening presents and seeing various grandparents, uncles and a smallish cousin food isn't a priority today. He has some scrambled eggs for breakfast, spaghetti and ice cream and strada and then several handfuls of sweets and a slice of my mum's cake for dinner. Not his finest culinary day, but he was very funny

sauteed chicken with cider & tarragon - Waitrose Food Card, September 2010

catch ups

Hello, just thought you'd like to know I've *finally* caught up with my outstanding posts, if you don't count tonight that is. I'll do that tomorrow.

So, if you want to delve into the recent past you can 'enjoy'
Also, did you know if you searched in google for "Chilli Bean Burritos", we're number one? Strange but true. As Lucyfer Gusson points out, you can't buy that SEO juice. Urrgh - vile girl!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

zanzibar chicken

What's your favourite dish? I'm not going to cook it but I'll order it from ZANZIBAR!

Today is all about preparing for Milo's birthday on Monday. We've got some shopping to do, we need to get him some winter school shoes, tidy the house and we need to diminish the washing mountain. Ana Louise takes care of the latter two whilst I knacker him out in the wave pool and water slides at Brentford Fountains, that's foxing teamwork. In fact we are there for just short of three hours of sliding, bobbing in the waves and generally splashing, and he sparks out in the car on the way home, which is useful even if it does mean we have a later evening than usual.

Later, with the shopping, shoes and Strictly done, a very good little boy goes to sleep and we have an experimental curry from this month's Delicious, whilst watching Sense & Sensibility from my new costume drama collection.

zanzibar chicken
It's a pretty rich dish, and the tomatoes, basil and cloves make it taste completely different from other chicken curries I've cooked. Personally I loved it, but I think next time Ana would prefer it with pureed ginger rather than chopped, which is a fair point. The chillis come from my plant outside, which has gone mental, and the basil is from Milo's basil seeds.

Incidentally, I know I made the claim this year's June edition of Delicious was the best single issue, but looking at this month's made me think that maybe my favourite issues are the November ones? Some many of our dishes come from these issues it *must* be the best? Tomato curry, little mash pies, beef stew with pumpkin, cep and potato stew, lamb karahi, sage and sausage pasta, pumpkin minestrone, and thai fish and pumpkin curry have all appeared from November's pages, and there are at least six dishes I want to cook in the next week or so, including tonight's dinner. Any takers, or indeed disagreers?

Food of the Milos
Despite the three hours of swimming, Milo doesn't eat an awful lot today, but what he does eat is pretty spectacular. I design his breakfast into his own heraldic shield, however he misses the point and calls it 'breakfast pie':

breakfast pie
That's apple, banana and raisin 'cakes', a marmite crumpet and four grapes. No lunch, but a bribery packet of jelly dinosaurs during the shoe fitting, and then sausage, beans and chips for dinner. He is a very good boy, and hugs me and Ana in Sheen High Street, whilst inviting us to his birthday party. It's a monster party apparently, but we don't have to be scared because he'll look after us - aaaaah!

zanzibar chicken - Paul Merrett, Delicious, November 2010, p64

Friday, 1 October 2010

hearty vegetable cottage pie

No post last night because I was getting thrashed bowling by a transsexual called Fiona at Shoreditch House.

That's how we roll at work, and by the time I got back from the dodgy East End I was so tired and full of Peroni and pizza I could only manage Ana's left-overs. Which for the record were 1 (one) prawn and 1 (one) spoonful of Old Fashioned Chicken Curry sauce from the take away her and Kate had in my absence. She really knows how to spoil me, however I didn't have to wait too long to wreak my terrible rewenge!

Somewhat unexpectedly my dad pitched up tonight as he'd been rained off working in Sudbury, so naturally rather than driving to Portsmouth in the pouring rain he came over here to get dry, have dinner and take advantage of the inflatable bed. This is of course fine and dandy, particularly as Milo doesn't get to see him enough, but he's unashamedly useless during the dinner-bath-bed routine, and smokes like a chimney.

The combination of this, relentless army stories from the 50s (front row, sat to the right of the guy in the khaki uniform, if you're interested), and the fact I get home 45 minutes late means Ana is less-than-pleased.

I was planning to do a pumpkin and spinach curry but there's *definitely* not enough for three, so given Ana wants to watch strictly, and I've heard all the army stories, I decide to make the vegetable cottage pie on the basis we can all have it, Milo can have it tomorrow, and I can go to the pub with dad whilst it slowly cooks in the oven.

hearty vegetable cottage pie
We're all winners, the pie is a pretty top defence against the awful weather (particularly with a cheesey crust), and Dad comes up with some never-before-heard-by-me climbing stories that are genuinely hysterical - hurrah!

hearty vegetable cottage pie - Delicious, January 2007, p28