Monday, 10 December 2012

vietnamese beef noodle soup

*False dawn alert* Oh look, I've updated the blog. Finally. Again. Although I've learned my lesson this time and I'm not promising anything about catching up with stuff between now and Christmas. Maybe after St Michaelmas day I'll get back on it, when everybody's given up the booze for January...

Anyhoo, tonight's super-soaraway update doesn't feature yet another amazing dish by Ana Louise, who's been parachuted in to feed the Barnes clan whilst I'm poncing about the City - although you've got plenty of those to come, don't worry Anagella fans! No tonight, we're rocking a zingy, easy-to-make, flavour-packed soup, that slaps any lurking cold and 'flu germs around the chops, and physically injects healthy good vibes into your system.

Naturally now she's a Masterchef, Ana has many opinions, the least of which she doesn't like the Thai basil in it. God, I wish she'd never learned.

Wine Time
Erm, it's ages since I've done this, so forgive me if I'm slightly out of practice, and as such I'm going to go either with a super-dry Riesling as it's full of the same racy lime flavours and acidity as the soup, with a great bite of minerality to give it some body.

vietnamese beef noodle soup - Waitrose Kitchen, Feburary 2012, p88

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Almost 40

After desperately chasing my youth in the pub with Charlie and Gavroche from work - including getting accidentally sprayed with shampagum by a waitress - today I wake up ever-so slightly older.

Sadly Milo doesn't respect my new-found wisdom and a) wakes up heinously early and demands nibbles, and b) tells me he's not going to tell me about my surprise breakfast, which the lovely Ana cooks whilst I have a much-needed post-nibble snooze.

Even better, after a leisurely breakfast/game of Lego, we head out for a birthday Gourmet Burger - which I've craved since he was born - before buying a birthday table cloth (which I've also craved) and some birthday flowers (which I've also apparently desired for ages), and hurrying back to prep dinner.

The thing is I don't really feel a massive urge to go out, but I do fancy a nice dinner, with booze and friends. But I'm not cooking it all as it's my freaking birthday!

Kendra Kats, sans the sickly Brian, turns up with a wooden boat full of crudites, and Hugh's carrot houmous and dukka, which turns out to be almost fatally more filling than we thought.

We weigh in with classic Bill Granger Kashmiri potatoes, dhal with lime and fragrant chicken and spinach curry. Which myself and Greg bravely soldier through for the greater good of the ladies waistlines.

Having eaten our weight in dinner (well, hopefully not mine and Greg's), Spandy comes up trumps not only eschewing her standard Lemon Soup, but turning up with an amazing plum crumble cake AND musical candle arrangement. Luckily off-setting my silly hair.

Happy Birthday me. 39 years and now stone.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's vedgeree

After the first of the year's Christmas corporate tastings last night (Christmas in October - wtf?), tonight we hit the Hugh double, and it's a controversial number: Hugh's Vedgeree.

It's controversial for a couple of reasons; One, it wasn't the best thing I cooked last time, lacking something and being a bit bland really. I'd confined it to the experimental bin to be honest, so it was a bit of a curve ball when Ana decided it looked delicious - and that's even with her personal kryptonite, aubergine. Even more controversially, I sort of managed to burn the veg...

The egg doesn't look that sharp either does it? As it happens though, it's a marked improvement on the last effort: I used more spices this time, and the poached egg (Ana's was much better, I promise) I think is a better option than soft-boiled, as you can you at least guarantee you've got some yolk to help moisten the otherwise-dry-ish rice dish.

Are we going to have it again? Lord knows - it's probably more likely than it was, but I might have to work on my poaching technique at least. Anybody else convinced?

vedgeree - hugh fearnley-whittingstall, River Cottage Veg Everyday!, p276

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's roasted parsnip, lentil and watercress salad

Ooooh finally it's getting a bit Autumnal - at least the nice bit of Autumn: It's bright and crisp, clear and erm, even. Well not even, but bright, sunny, and lovely. It's a pleasure cycling in, and even quite nice winging it back, having a quick play with monkey and roasting me 'nips whilst snuggling up in bed with him.

This is definitely not a summer salad: It's earthy and surprisingly hearty (if you eat the whole thing between the two of you, despite the fact it's supposed to serve four people), but it's freshened by the peppery watercress, and the dressing spiked with garlic and mustard.

Wine Time
See what I said above? Garlic, mustard, lemon, earthy lentils and hefty parsnips. Oh and peppery watercress - that's a whole lot of flavours that need taming-slash-balancing.

I'm a bit torn with this one; on the one hand I think something like a warming, white Burgundy would work: It's acidic, warming and has a big enough body to stand up to the lentils.

On the other hand I reckon something juicy with some pepperiness would probably work equally be good, like a Cotes du Rhone villages. Conflicted, or what?

roasted parsnip, lentil and watercress salad - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg Everyday, p90

Monday, 8 October 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's pasta with raw tomato

Another month goes by, and once more I've failed to do any updates. Hurrah for me, or not - hey ho. What better way to kick-start yet-another second coming, than with another Ana smasher?

Tonight, whilst I'm doing the circuits in the rain, she's gamely de-seeding and de-skinning tomatoes, before pushing it all through a sieve, and then marinading it all. She blinking loves it, although of course she doesn't and finds it all a massive pfaff and will. never. cook. it. again.

I could've told her this of course, having made a similar Bill Granger number when we were in Wundy Wullington, but she needs to find these things out for herself. Plus I was battling burping up snails and Barolo, and trying not to be sick in a park of course, so I couldn't tell her.

It is however, very, very lovely, so she's going to have to make it again next week:

Wine Time
I might have mentioned this before somewhere, but what's going on here - other than spiky garlic and peppery basil - is a whole load of acidic tomato, which as we all know, needs something equally acidic to balance it. The key difference to my amazing video debut, is the tomatoes aren't cooked, and whilst red wine nails a ragu it completely overpowers the raw fruit.

This is a zesty dish, so you'd want something similarly zingy, with some fleshiness to it to work with the weight of the pasta. I thinking a good, bone-dry, Provencal Rose would go down a storm, as would something like an Albarino from Spain or even something like a Loire Sauvignon - or even better, given the peppery herbs, a Rhone pink might just be perfect.

pasta with raw tomato - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg Everyday! p254

Monday, 24 September 2012

nigel slater's orzo with courgettes and grana padano

We're back to a full house tonight as Kay and Mike are up for the night before they skive off to Croatia on holiday, although the squeeze is slightly alleviated as it's a Bikini Blitz tonight. So whilst I'm out working on my running technique (apparently your legs have to cycle like you're riding a bike), Ana is at home getting all experimental with her favourite veg - the courgette.

It's a surprisingly great meal. Not surprising because Ana cooked it I hasten to add, but the way the sweet veg harmonises with the orzo and smokey/salty bacon. She may cook it again, but only if she can find the recipe again.

Here's a thing though, what's the point of The Observer Food Monthly? It just seems to be the personal PR department for Nigel Slater. It's very dull.

Wine Time
Anybody want to guess what the dominant flavours here are? It's going to be the salty cheese or the pancetta depending on how smoked it is, either way you'll probably onto a winner with a lighter red like a Beaujolais or a New World Pinot. If you fancy a white, how about a dry, mineral Riesling to cut through the fattiness?

orzo with courgettes and grana padano - Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries II, via The Observer

Sunday, 23 September 2012

spiced chicken and lentil soup

This looks properly delicious doesn't it?

Okay, so not as delicious as it tastes, but this Waitrose spiced chicken and lentil soup is a properly good meal, and I promise there is loads of chicken and lentils just under the veg, at the bottom of the bowl.

I love making this meal: I love boiling up the chicken carcasses (I use two), I love the earthy flavours of the lentils and spices, and I love the feeling of virtuousness it gives you eating it.

Unfortunately Ana does not love it as much. Well she does, but she particularly does not love the extensive time it takes to cook, particularly as after yesterday's late night back from Dave & Lucy's, and she wants Milo in bed early rather than watching DVDs late, waiting for the soup to cook. Still, carcasses!

spiced chicken and lentil soup - Waitrose Kitchen - January 2012, p89

Thursday, 20 September 2012

thai pork vermicelli salad

Thrifty and thrufty, tasty and enough to go round four people who want to watch the new and latest Midsomer Murders. Okay, I want to watch Midsomer Murders, but I'm also ravenous and given we've fed this to Kayosaurus & Mikeplodocus in a previous incarnation, I wanted to give them the spanking new version which is browner, and zestier:

The trick here is to have the hob on maximum, so the meat browns really quickly and stays moist, and double the amount of mint and coriander in the salad to really zest it up. It's the best yet, I think.

thai pork vermicelli salad - Delicious, June 2012, p115

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's creamy fish pie

It's been a long time since I last updated this blog - June as Kendra and Lucy have kindly pointed out - and I can only offer the excuse I've been very busy. Sorry. Hopefully we'll be back on it from now on, whatever 'it' is, and I'll attempt to catch up in someway over the coming weeks, or until the festive season of wine events my calendar/liver.

Still, we're back with a bang tonight with one of my favourite comfort dishes to make: Hugh's creamy fish pie. Every stage of this is a joy to make, and it's so easy: from letting the fish gently poach in milk, to mashing the potatoes and making the bechemel with the fishy cow juice, it's all strangely satisfying.

Given we're all suffering from some sort of cold at the moment, even Kay and Mike who are up for two day's school run, it's like a big fishy scarf/hot water bottle when it comes out of the oven. Just imagine that for a moment. It sounds terrible, but there's nothing more warming, welcoming and instantly snot-battling than the smell of smoked haddock and mashed potato.

Interestingly, we've switched to frozen fish these days, mainly because it's vastly cheaper. The only downside as far as I can tell is the fact the frozen fillet tend to lose their shape and flake, rather than stay chunky, but with the pie I think that's a minor gripe. Yet again we're all restrained enough to leave some for Milo's tea tomorrow, although he's insisted he wants the prawns separately for 'pudding', and for my lunch, so we must be coming down with something.

Wine Time
You've got creamy bechemel and smokey haddock dominating this dish, so I'd go with something similarly rich and buttery, but with a touch of the timber - but only a touch, otherwise you'd overpower it all. An AC Burgundy should do it, or any lightly-oaked chardonnay depending on whether you like greener fruit (Old World) or more tropical flavours (New World). Or steaming mugs of tea, like us.

creamy fish pie - Saint Hugh and Fizz Carr, The River Cottage Family Cookbook, p248

Monday, 17 September 2012

gennaro and carluccio's borlotti bean soup

Strangely there were no tears this morning. This was because Milo decided he needed to cycle to school on his first morning, which meant rather than a moment to be cherished, there was only shame for the Barnes family as he was the last child through the door, and we instantly became 'those parents' Ana hates. Still, I'm presuming we don't have to pick him up for another 11 years now?

Off to work with a left-over chicken leg and salad for me, and Ana's first day of peace for three months, we're heading into virgin territory for other reasons than new schools: Bikini Blitz is back tonight and rather than eating at midnight because I've barely started prepping until 21.30 military hours, Monday nights are now Ana Nights.

I thinks she's got a pretty good repertoire, she just doesn't enjoy cooking as much as me so I'm quite impressed she decided to kick off with an experimental-for-her Gennaro Contaldo/Carluccio borlotti bean soup.

I'm even more impressed when I return from giving my bikini a thorough going-over by the delicious smell wafting down the corridor, and the feast of warming, tomato-y, goodness waiting for me, finished off with some left-over fried chorizo:

I imagine this is exactly what it's like living with Nigella. Admittedly a slightly grumpier Nigella who doesn't like cooking when tragic TV shows are on, and doesn't really want to 'accidentally' spill cream from an eclair down her front, despite me begging, but a very nice version of Nigella nevertheless. Even better, there's clearly enough for two lunchtimes this week!

Wine Time
Hmmm, I'm not entirely sure what you should drink with soup, after all it's already quite liquid-y. When in doubt I tend to fall back to the rule of thumb of pairing with food and wine from the same country; so I'm going to go with a juicy, Italian red like a Montepulciano or a Sangiovese, both of which are acidic enough to match the tomato, but full-bodied enough to balance the creamy pulses. Plus they've got some spice as well, which helps here I think.

fresh borlotti bean soup alla maruzzara - Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio, Two Greedy Italians, from Delicious, June 2011, p38

Sunday, 16 September 2012

bill granger's quick roast chicken with shallots and white wine

Today marks the end of an era, as almost five years after he appeared, Milo starts big school tomorrow. Well, big-ger school, but still none of us are entirely sure what this means or how we feel. Certainly he's ready to go, having out-grown nursery, and he's (currently) quite excited by the prospect of joining Giraffe class but... well, he's still our little boy! He should be making dens and snuggling and reading The Guffalo with Scruffy Dog, not going to school to do the book-learning!

Giving in to our fin de siecle feelings, we try to make his last day of freedom is fun, as much to take our minds off it as his. It all starts off very well; we all get up late, Kendra Kats and the whanau come over for tea, and we then go to the park for riding bikes and eating Pickles & Rye brownies and Toronto sandwiches on the bench. However,  it then all goes a bit pear-shaped as we realise he's got no uniform for tomorrow, and we end up bringing the whole looming school-thing to the very front of his mind with a mad dash to buy shoes and trousers, only marginally off-set by a trip to the Lego shop to decide what he wants for his birthday.

Knackered out and asleep, the only thing left to do is  cave-in to the Autumnal 'Back to School' vibe, knock up a comforting Sunday roast and watch the new series of Downton:

Naturally we're still in the pre-hopefully-being-zonked-by-school age, so with time of the essence between snuggling and Lady Mary appearing, we opt for Bill Granger's super-quick roast chicken recipe (with lashings of juices to be mopped up with bread), some cauliflower cheese, and mini-roasties in their skins.

I think the bistro nature of this hints towards winter, without actually involving the usual (and welcome) masses of a proper roast. That's coming though, I can feel it in the air...

Wine Time
We're not quite in White Burgundy territory yet, but it is getting nippier. I'd go with either a dry Vouvray with it's fuller-body to complement the chicken, and acidity to cut through the cauliflower cheese or, seeing how it as 'the season', a nice, young New World Pinot Noir would go down a treat.

quick roast chicken with white wine and shallots - Bill Granger, Delicious March 2012, p57

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

rosie lovell's chorizo-spiked ratatouille

Now here's a thing: Regular readers (whilst despairing about my lack of updates), will know we've tried a few different ratatouille recipes, but none have come close to toppling Saint Hugh's multi-pan approach. It's a pain in the arse to wash up, but it's the best.

Maybe it's the washing, but I don't know why I even considered Rosie Lovell's recipe in this month's Delicious, but I'm glad I did because it's aces. Not only is it relatively quick, but the addition of chorizo and anchovies really take it to another level.

Whisper it, but I think I prefer this version to Hugh's, what with the extra spice from the sausage, and I suspect Ana might favour the lack of aubergine (although you can clearly add it along with a stack of other things). Definitely having it again.

Wine Time
Well this is an interesting one. It's a fairly chunky dish with loads of big flavours - paprika, herbs and the sweetness and acidity from the tomato, so I'm going to go either a light-to-medium red - Pinot, Montepulciano - or completely mad and suggest a big old Rhone red. Mmmmmmm tasty!

chorizo-spiked ratatouille - Rosie Lovell, Delicious, June 2012, p22

Monday, 11 June 2012

jill dupleix's white bean polpettine

Despite the fact it's summer, and therefore allegedly supposed to be getting quieter, we teeter on the edge of a super-busy fortnight with a whole stack of evening tastings before everybody disappears off on holiday.

With this in mind, and the fact tonight being a Monday, whatever's on the menu needs to be quicker than lightening. And really really filling, as I've just spent an hour doing burpees. And really healthy for the usual bikini-based reasons. Like we're going anywhere that needs a bikini this year...

It's a classic, and as we've never really convinced Milo about the merits of what are essentially mini veggie burgers with salami in, it all means more for us. With wine. And salad.

white bean polpettine - Jilly D, the Parsley Book

Sunday, 10 June 2012

donna hay's prawn pad thai

After last night's midnight drive home, the Whanau are taking it easy today. A little light Lego, some Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom to ease us into the day, coffee from new-favourite coffee shop Pickle & Rye (who needs Kaffiene/Orange Pekoe?), and a quick trip around Waitrose and we're done. Who knew the day could go so fast when you're having fun?

With prawns on massive discount we're feeling adventurous tonight. Milo loves them, but he's also said he likes noodles, and we're keen to broaden his horizons a bit as he's fallen into a bit of a sausage rut. Steady, he's a child.

Given he wants to help, some sort of stir fry beckons so he can chop and stir and throw lots of Soy Sauce around, and then we hit the jackpot: Dame Donna's Pad Thai. We haven't had it for ages, it's always a winner and it's full of Milo-tastic things, including omlette, baby corn and other stuff.

It's a massive win all round, apart from our discovery he hates the smell of shrimp paste frying. At least I've got something to threaten him with now I suppose.

Wine Time
Compared to a lot of Thai dishes, Pad Thai is relatively restrained, but there's still a lot of sour and spicy flavours which make pairing with wine a bit of a challenge. I think generally I'd go with something a little bit of residual sugar, and with a lot of fruitiness, like a Pinot Gris, a Riesling or something like a South African Chenin. However I read the other day about something that's the perfect match and bound to appeal to all of you. And by 'you' I'm thinking of 'all girls, particularly the ones I know': Fizz. A Prosecco or a Cremant would be amazing as their both really light, and importantly, have some sweetness. Winners all round, apart from my bank account.

prawn pad thai - Donna Hay, Modern Classics Book 1, p133

Saturday, 9 June 2012

delia smith's chicken basque

With zero in the bank account, and my life partner/banker living it up on the Isle of Wight things are looking bleak. Well, not bleak, boring because I suspect it's probably frowned upon for an almost-40-year-old to spend the weekend playing Lego and watching Horrible Histories on his own all weekend.

I did make a pretty bloody spectacular truck mind, and I accidentally managed to run 16K when I decided to drag my arse off for a time-consuming run down to Putney Bridge and back the other side to Chiswick, and failing to take into account the strength of the prevailing wind coming back.

Even better, whilst recovering in the sunny garden with a chilled rosé and the latest copy of The Middle Aged Woman's Bible, I stumbled upon tonight's dinner. It ticked all boxes: It looked delicious, it was summery and crucially, I had all the ingredients either in the freezer or malingering in the fridge:

It's from Delia's Summer Collection, which they've just reissued and to be honest it all looks brilliant. I might have to lurk around the local second hand shops as I'm sure they're going to be stuffed with copies of the 20 year old original.

I think it's a lot like a one-pot version of paella with less of the pfaff, and naturally I ate far too much, and it was only much later I realised Lia had cooked this for us over Easter, and I've got the recipe on my phone from her book. A definite winner, and it makes a change from our usual Delia fare.

Wine Time
This is a big old, mouth-filling meal with an hearty amount of earthy spices and piquant chorizo, so I think you could get away with something quite punchy, like a youngish Rioja, or a peppery and rustic Southern French or Spanish red, or even a Spanish Rosada rather than the more elegant provencal rose.

Chicken Basque - Delia Smith, Delicious, July 2012, p66

Friday, 8 June 2012

pancetta-wrapped salmon with griddled asparagus

I'm not sure four days of asparagus (five if you count two portions of Ottolenghi's salad for lunch this week), is very good for you. It's certainly not good for the ambiance of the flat, and tonight's final installment has become something of a mental battle. I do not feel in the mood for fish, and I'm certainly not in the mood for more of Evesham's finest, but neither can I make a meal out of pickled garlic, blueberries and cheese, which is all that's left in the fridge. Sigh

Hopefully the addition of the new potatoes will dilute the smell tomorrow.

Wine Time
I drank Rueda because I love it at the moment: It's fruity, got some body to it and has enough acidity to cut through the fleshiness of the fish. However I suspect a Sauv would go equally well, as would an Alsatian Riesling that's dry and crisp rather than full of residual sugar.

pancetta-wrapped salmon with griddled asparagus and lime creme fraiche - Delicious, June 2010, p23

Thursday, 7 June 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's baby carrot and broad bean risotto

I don't know about you lot but carrots, and more specifically left-over carrots are a hardy staple of our fridge: We all sort of eat them, but we eat less of them than we buy. Some go into the freezer to go into stocks, Milo has them for dinner a couple of times a week, and we also panic chop and eat them with houmous, but we bin a lot more than we consume.

'Tis vexing, which is why when I spotted this in St Hugh's Veg! Everyday book I thought I might have found one of those recipes that will adequately absorb the carrot surplus. It looks pretty good, and as His Holiness points out, it is a little taste of early summer. After all nobody wants Carrot Soup in July:

The thing is though, whilst it is nice - although I suspect fresh broad beans would be more vibrant than canned - and filling, it just tastes like almost-every-other risotto: rice, cheese and whatever else you throw in as a third flavour. Given the sheer weight of carrots, we will be having this again but I wonder what I can add to make it really special?

I realise I'm sounding a little negative, which I don't mean to be. Clearly eating the whole lot (serves 4-6) indicates how tasty it was, and it was a great accompaniment to watching my new favourite thinking-man's crumpet, Dr Helen Castor. She's my second favorite lady historian after Mrs A Barnes BA, PGCE of course.

Wine Time
Again, another one for The Yummington menu I think. It's not a particularly citrus-y risotto this and neither is very earthy, so I think a white with some body would be perfect: A Burgundy would be divine if you were minted, failing that a New World Chenin or Chardonnay would fit the bill.

baby carrot and broad bean risotto - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg Everyday! p269

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

ottlenghi's chargrilled asparagus, courgettes and halloumi

This is one of those salad-y dishes I've been desperate to try it every time we make the recipe opposite it, roast chicken and three-rice salad, which as you know we have loads...

So with a fridge full of angiosperms and the inevitable four half-eaten punnets of cherry tomatoes, and without the usual eye-rolling accompaniment from Mrs Barnes, tonight is the night it gets its debut. I don't get Ana's attitude to this - halloumi, courgette, cherry tomatoes, salad - these are all key food groups of the McCarthy. We've also had plenty of amazing Ottolenghi dishes whether we've cooked them or supplied variously by Kendra Kats and Miss Smither, but she's strangely resistant to it's charms:

Two smokey, hellish hours later, I'm firmly in the HATE camp. It's not that it's difficult per se and it's not that it doesn't taste delish, it does. It's the multiple levels of admittedly-easy stages that essentially I'm going to boil down to 'blanch and grill the lot in one go' if, God-forbid I ever make it again. Add to that I simply don't have enough bowls to take various part-boiled, part-grilled marinading veg. It is nice though...

Wine Time
Should The Yummington Mummington ever take shape, and I get a chef to cook it rather than having me weeping in frustration in the kitchen, this has "Lunch" or "Light Bite" all over it, and it also has Sauvignon Blanc. And not just because it's the default fuel of all Yummy Mummies, but because it's perfect for this dish. The thing with Sauvs is there are loads of varieties you can choose from, you can go all classy with a Sancerre with it's mineral bite that'll cleanse your palate of the creamy halloumi, a lemony Bordeaux or Aussie number to match the dressing, or even go wild and crazy with an herbaceous Kiwi wonder to harmonise with the asparagus. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

chargrilled asparagus, courgettes and halloumi - Yotam Ottolenghi, Delicious July 2008, p64, from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

thai pork vermicelli salad

Finally this weekend, we've got nothing to miss or be late for, so everybody is a bit happier.

Apart from Milo of course who has spotted some toys which he hasn't played with since he was a baby earmarked for a trip to FARA. Of course the small wooden truck is a old favorite (never played with), and I totally understand his disappointment losing those baby jigsaws that have been in a drawer for two years, but a trip to Barnes for lunch beckons.

Once there we effectively swop one set of toys for another whilst Ana checks our just how vastly over-priced Nicola Horlick's new restaurant Georgina's is. The answer is "VASTLY", which is completely bonkers given the restaurant it has replaced was about £5 cheaper, and that was overpriced, which is why it was always empty. I know this is Barnes, but I wonder how long it'll last.

Obviously it didn't get our custom as we went off to The Sun for lunch, before Ana and Milo head to the Diamond Isle for the rest of the week. Home alone with a pantry full wine, I naturally celebrate by going for a catnap for two hours. *Yawn*

Having eventually got up, there's an element of planning ahead to be done as I want to have enough left over for lunch, and I don't want asparagus everyday. I'm not sure my nasal passages could take the pain to be honest, so I kick off the week with a re-run of last week's highly successful Thai Pork Vermicelli Salad as I picked up some fillet on offer this week.

The trick here I've found is to a double the amount of marinade because the veg and noodles don't really absorb much of the flavour, and flash frying is the way forward with the pork to get it browned and cooked quickly to keep it moist, rather than drying it out.

thai pork vermicelli salad - Delicious, June 2012, p115

Monday, 4 June 2012

simple fish stew

Will this Royal fever never end? It's only Monday and already I feel like my liver has been beaten with a stick. At least it's sunnier today, and after the bitter recriminations of missing Her Maj yesterday, today we decide we need to be more organised. Again.

Sadly the sum of our parts seem to magnetically repel organisation, and we're an hour late to Wandsworth Royalty Jude's BBQ. And I left the wine on the kitchen table.

Still, one afternoon watching chickens with beer cans up their bums cooking on the grill, relentlessly playing games with Milo, and picking at salad, we're all ready to come home - and I've not even been drinking today!

As ever the bedtime routine dragged on, leaving us out on our feet once he was a-kip. What we both need is a healthy, zesty dinner that makes you feel instantly healthy and alive, whilst doing fair battle with the torrential rain that has set in. I have to say experimental fish stew is not top of my list of things to cook, but neither am I inspired by anything else in the fridge, and what does excite me gets ruled out by the extensive marinading time. Still, cooking fish whilst you're hungover? I don't think so!

How wrong can you be? It was amazing. Simple, zesty, healthy and packed full of flavours - so much so there was none left for Milo tomorrow or my planned lunch portion. All gone, and even with some plate licking and plenty of mopping up with rustic bread.

When we do it again I might throw some chilli in to give it some more zing, and maybe replace the orange with lemon, as the combination of tomatoes and orange reminds me too much of our chorizo and butter bean stew. Actually, it's weird how tomatoes and orange do go together...

Wine Time
Essentially this is bouillabaisse I suppose, although without all the spider fish, spiny badger fish, gurnard, guts and shellfish. It's rich and full-bodied, the fish is fairly sweet and subtle, but you've also got hearty tomatoes and pungent fennel. In this sort of "Oh My God" scenario I tend to go with the local wine for the very good reason the food and wine tend to support each other - so in this case I reckon a good Provencal Rosé would do the trick a treat.

simple fish stew - Waitrose Love Life, Summer 2012, p45

Sunday, 3 June 2012

jamie oliver's proper bloke's fusilli

Hurrah for The Queen! Negative "Hurrumble" for our time-keeping. Something happened today, something to do with boats, Royalty and torrential rain, but as we weren't there in time (again) let's draw a line under this sort of thing (care of Les Bren):

It never happened. Anyway who needs to be about 10metres away from the red carpet? Milo saw her and Phil in Sheen last month, if he sees her again he'll start to think they're friends and she owes him some Lego.

No, let's concentrate on the purpose of this blog, not bitter recriminations about getting up but food glorious food! Essentially nothing has happened for six or so hours, in the rain, apart from a couple of bottles of beer were drunk, maybe some wine and a variety of cold meats and crisps. Doesn't matter where, or why, the upshot is we're starving, and because of yesterday's BBQ there is a surfeit of sausages in the fridge ergo let's pig out on Jamie's proper bloke's fusilli:

Do we save any for Milo's lunch tomorrow? Do we bollocks. Do we dredge up the day's failings for a slightly drunken inquest into what went wrong? Mais oui!

Wine Time
Well we've had loads of everything so I suspect our palates were slightly blunted by this point. We drank rose, but I would imagine a lovely silky red, like a Montepulciano would be lush. Or just some more rose - it's dangerously easy-drinking!

proper bloke's sausage fusilli - Jamie Oliver, Cook With Jamie, p72

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

jill dupliex's sesame chicken salad with cucumber and celery

I can't believe this is the first time we've eaten this, this year? Can it be true? God it used to be such a weekly standby I could make it my sleep.

It's just as well really as we're both a bit knackered tonight, so we want something as quick as possible - with the slim chance of having some for lunch tomorrow - so we can take advantage of eating in what's left of the sunshine. 

Wine Time
I'm tempted to say 'Stizzy water' or a beer, because nothing really matches that amazingly with molten peanut butter dressing, particularly something as sturdy as this is. Nope, I can't think of anything, I'll have to do some 'research'...

sesame chicken salad with cucumber and celery - Jill Dupleix, the Owl Book

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's white beans with artichokes

Ooooh, we're getting right creative in our attempts to lose weight not by doing any exercise, or by drinking less, but by trying to eat our way to becoming thinifers.

So after last week's resounding (and frankly unscripted) success, we're back on Saint Hugh's white beans with artichokes, if only because we've still got half a jar of artichokes in the fridge and everybody has some sort of half-abandoned bag of salad in there...

The only difference between this week and last week, is rather than large rounds of goat's cheese, we've gone for Feta which works much better in a not-clogging-your-mouth-up-with-a-cheesy-coating manner. I suspect however, if you could find that goats cheese that comes in a pot rather than a log, that would be even better.

white beans with artichokes - River Cottage Veg Everyday! HFW, p 240

Monday, 28 May 2012

thai pork vermicelli salad

It's not often we have pork. I quite like it but Ana pulls a face that looks like she's been sucking on an entire orchard of lemons, salted with anchovies, whenever it gets suggested, so I'm slightly surprised she actually chooses this recipe from the latest Delicious.

The deal is sealed when went shopping yesterday and found a pork fillet reduced to £2 as it's sell-by date is today, so there's plenty of experimental porky goodness to share around. Which is just as well as Kayosaurus is up to do some Milo-wrangling as Ana's got an extra day at work.

It's got a swag load of fresh, zippy ingredients in it, and the chilli-infused dressing really peps up the combination of noodles, broccoli and carrot, which are all barely cooked. It's one of those dishes which scream 'health' as soon as it goes in the bowl, although I think the pork needs a higher, quicker heat to cook it. Definitely a Yummingon Mummington dish of the future, and I rather suspect you could swap the pork for chicken or even, heaven forfend, turkey.

Wine Time
What with the lime, fish sauce, chilli, ginger, garlic and sesame oil in the dressing, there's a lot going on here, so I think we're in classic Pinot Gris territory, and particularly a new world number which has all the acidity and full-bodied qualities, but the fruit is riper. Or, if you're feeling really adventurous, how about a Gewurtztraminer? Crazy I know, but this peppery little aromatic has a lot going for it where spicy, fresh salads are concerned.

thai pork vermicelli salad - Delicious, June 2012, p115

Thursday, 24 May 2012

pasta with asparagus, pesto and poached egg

Can this be summer finally arriving? This week has been spent variously hungover, drinking in the streets and sipping pink champagne on the balcony of the Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner:

Today I spend it mainly sweltering in the kitchen whilst working from home. As ever with working-from-home Thursdays, after dropping Milo off at nursery I come home via my new-found (well, Ana found it) favourite coffee shop, Pickle & Rye on Sheen Lane, to pick up a flat white and a sandwich for lunch. The day then quite literally drains away in a torrent of rosé being shipped out to Putney for the weekend. By the time Ana and Milo get home, I'm starving and ready to get stuck into the 2-for-1 bunches of asparagus we got in Waitrose.

I have to say I'm a relatively new convert to the charms of angiosperms (snigger), partly because I'm one of that 22% who smell asparagus-y effluvia - you all make it mind - but this old recipe really kick-started our intake. 'Tis also in season, why not get stuck in eh?

Wine Time
Now this maybe purely because of the smell, but I'm going to go with a really grassy - rather than full-blown tropical fruit - New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If that doesn't take your fancy, you couldn't go far wrong sticking with culture and trying it with a fruity Pinot Grigio, or a herbaceous Soave.

pasta with asparagus, pesto and poached egg - Delicious, May 2005, p110

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's white beans with artichoke

Christ, I'm a month behind - am I ever going to catch up? Am I bobbins, anyhoo whilst I flagellate myself in the background, let's crack on with some sort update that's at least relatively recent. Almost as it happens in fact.

To be honest you've only missed a litany of stews and such like to drive out the inclement weather we've been suffering but today - ooooooooh - it's freaking hot isn't it? Hurrah for summer, so although we've missed the chance of our first al fresco dinner of the year, we're still gunning for an experimental salad care of Lord Whittingstall of Fernley voila -white beans with artichokes!

Now given the preponderance of goat's cheese (a particularly beautiful version from Coer de Lion) AND roasted artichoke, this didn''t look the most promising dinner Ana-wise but hallelujah, it's bleedin' aces! The combination of the creamy cheese and butter beans really complements the smokey artichokes - no seriously, it does! Even more curiously, Mrs B wants crusty bread which is obviously kryptonite to womankind now it's bikini weather.

It's so alarmingly quick to put-together that I've unfortunately got time to get my hands into the remains of two chicken carcasses I've previously boiled up, and have since spent a day in the fridge, which has effectively turned the soon-to-be-soup into some sort jelly chicken trifle, with chicken bones suspended in them rather than fruit. It's strangely satisfying...

Wine Time
There are a couple of things are going on here - there's a large element of mouth-coating creaminess via the butter beans and cheese, the artichokes are a bit mushy, and there's a lemony dressing - we're talking Sauvignon Blanc. It's acidic enough to match the dressing and to cut through the consistency of the beans/cheese/roasted veg. We had a Gruner Veltliner of course, which is this year's posh person's Sauv.

white beans with artichokes - River Cottage Veg Everyday! HFW, p 240

Monday, 21 May 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's chillies stuffed with beans

To be honest, given the extreme faffiness this recipe entails I wasn't entirely sure I'd ever venture down this path again. However the irresistible combination of spotting some vaguely poblano-esque peppers reduced in Waitrose, the truth that roasting peppers isn't exactly hard, and the fact yesterday was pretty much spent entirely in a meat-and-alcohol-fuelled street party haze, means we're sort-of detoxing. And is there anything more detoxing than pulse-stuffed peppers with salad?

As it turns out, I was right to be sceptical and I should really pay attention to my dull, throbbing brain as Romano peppers are even more of a pain in the arse to roast and stuff without falling apart than normal bell peppers. Look at that middle one - and that had the most skin left on it to try and keep it together! It's still nice once made, but I remain on the fence.

Interestingly enough, whilst I'm cocking about with capsicums, Gok is presenting a totally uncharacteristically interesting show about cooking Chinese food. Not only is he not annoying and going on about bangers, presumably because he dad doesn't have any, but the food looks amazeballs. Any thoughts?

Wine time
Naturally we start on the water, but because we're total lushes we end up on the Rose which isn't a terrible match at all - the drier, the better.

chillies stuffed with beans - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg Everyday!, p36

Saturday, 19 May 2012

bill granger's quick roast chicken with shallots and white wine, and milo's burger

Being insufferable middle-class types, we've got two anniversaries: our wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of the day we first started going out 'officially'. Today is the latter and was something that grew in significance the longer I resisted getting married, but has waned since then and particularly so since Milo came onto the scene.

However who knew what was going to happen in Quids Inn on Swansea Kingsway 17 years ago (a pound to get in, a pound a pint), so we've decided to re-celebrate our unofficial anniversary with a day of treats for us all. Obviously as soon as the pressure to 'have fun' is put on it all goes a bit pear-shaped, but low-level bickering about my driving and where to park in Richmond Park aside, it turns into a lovely day, even if all the treats were concentrated on a smallish person rather than on my lovely wife.

Still, having spent all morning pottering in the sun we all played Batman in the park, pointed at deer and ate ice creams, before repairing to our local gastro-pub, The Victoria, for Milo's dinner and several celebratory chenin blancs for us. I said we were middle-class. The pub is run by celeb chef Paul Merrett, with the wine list curated by Olly Smith, even more importantly it knows about portion control for the kids menu:

One burger the size of his head later, we take a virtually comatose Milo home to bed and whilst Ana also zonks out, a victim of white wine, I get a hearty portion of Bill Granger's quick-roast chicken on the go. Yes, that is a crust of bread soaking up the juices...

Even better, and this is probably more of sign where we are as a couple 17 years on from our hedonistic student youth, we spend our anniversary not making the beast with two backs, fuelled by champagne and passion, but snuggled on the sofa watching the last two episodes of The Bridge/Broen/Bron, stuffed with chicken and wine, and fighting for space on the foot rest. In many ways it's better.

quick roast chicken with white wine and shallots - Bill Granger, Delicious March 2012, p57

Thursday, 17 May 2012

hot chilli

What to do with that leftover block of mince you pick up in those seemingly-neverending two for one deals at the supermarket. The obvious immediate solution is to freeze the fucker, but what happens when your freezer ends up being 90% frozen bricks of beef?

In our house the long term solution is it either gets turned into spag bol or hot chilli, depending on the weather and how Ana is feeling about pasta at the time. It's raining, a bit chilly and we've got basmati and wild rice (which is clearly much better for you than spaghetti), ergo tonight it's hot chilli.

It still doesn't solve the problem of what to do with the rest of the freezer-load, but it's a start and there's plenty left over for my post-event dinner tomorrow night. Also, summer's around the corner so we're bound to use it all up in burgers for the BBQ and Spanish rice, every night during three months of sunny, al fresco dining. Pffft!

Wine Time
Chilli? Let's not muck about, there are rules which need to be upheld - It's got to be beer.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

puy lentils, tomato & feta

I'm not sure even in my wildest Good Life fantasies (which are obviously always going to be Margot-centric), did I ever think I'd end up having so many lentil-based dishes in my armoury. I've got recipes with them stewed with sausages, chicken soup, as dhal, roasted with parsnips in a salad, as a base for roasted fish - the list goes on! This week we stumbled on a rather tempting little salad in one of those pull-out mags you get in Waitrose, simply involving green beans, cheese and roasted tomatoes.

It's a fairly simple affair, and remarkably quick to put together (if you discount the roasting time), but if I've learned one thing it's to ignore the picture. Although I didn't, of course:

The lentils are nice and earthy, and the roasted tomatoes add a sweetness which is more than matched by the crisp beans. However, the massive wedges of Feta are almost entirely, mouth-claggingly indigestible. On re-reading the recipe I realise they've chosen to zhuzh up their picture with artfully placed cheese, drizzled with oil, whereas in fact the recipe stipulates 'small cubes'. Small cubes. It makes all the difference.

Wine Time
Assuming you've got your cheese portion control correct, this is still quite a mouth-filling, hefty meal, which requires something pinpoint sharp to cut through the rich flavours. I'm going to go with a Vouvray, which is fleshier than a Sauv, with some underlying sweetness even in the driest version, all of which balance the heft of the meal, but with the necessary acidity to combat the clag. Whatever we had got lost in the battle with the fermented sheep milk.

puy lentils, tomato & feta - Waitrose Early Summer Harvest 2012, p21

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

donna hay's rocket pasta with seared tuna

The best laid plans slip twixt lip and a bush tonight as Donna Hay's mooted warm white bean and tuna salad founders on the lack of cannellini beans. For some reason we've got two cans of chick peas, which aren't really interchangeable and suggest I was slightly more asleep on Saturday than I thought at the time.

Anyhoo, a quick flick through Miss Hay's latest tome not only comes up trumps with this alternative recipe (meaning I don't have to bin the tuna), but it also manages to use a bunch of malingering things in the fridge - hurrah!

Even better, for something that is 80% scrounged from the fridge Ana gives it a thumbs up, so definitely one for The Yummington Mummington.

Wine Time
Meaty fish and acidic dressing? Simples, especially for the denizens of the Yummington. Rose, and lashes of it - but not a flabby, cheap one mind, you need one with bags of acidity, bone dry and with plenty of fruitiness. If only I knew where to get one...

rocket pasta with seared tuna - Donna Hay, Fast, Fresh and Simple, p27

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's warm salad of mushrooms and roasted squash

When I own my first Bistro in Barnes, called 'The Yummington Mummington', I will be churning out exactly this sort of fayre to SW14s mummies at lunchtime, 14 quid a pop, along with a large bottle of Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc with a straw in it.

However Queen Yummington Mummington (or Qym as I'm now calling her), says there's too much blue cheese in it, which is a fair point as I doubled the amount on the basis it'll only go off in the fridge. So maybe I'll use some sort of Blue Halloumi - Yummington's love halloumi!

warm salad of mushrooms of roasted squash - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg! Everday, p94

Monday, 23 April 2012

fay ripley's miso noodle broth with salmon

No, I still can't believe we're actually eating a Fay Ripley meal either. Twice as well! What'll be next, Natalie Cassidy's giant cream baps? Phil Spencer's spicy sausage? Can celebrities just stop taking everything over?

Anyway, unlike last time, tonight we have it with a fillet of trout, which we decided worked much better than salmon. It's slightly more delicate, with a sweetness that seems to battle less with the otherwise-entirely-worthy other ingredients. Also, an interesting fact I did not know about Ana after 18 years together - she doesn't like broccoli. Who'd have thunk it? Obvs not me because we have it about twice a week...

Word to the wise on this one - this is OFFICIALLY the easiest recipe ever to make. You quite literally lob it all into on pan and let it do it's stuff for five minutes. Of course you have to first get some feckless teenager in Waitrose attempt to skin the trout with completely the wrong knife. 

fay ripley's miso noodle broth with salmon - Delicious, May 2012, p112

Sunday, 22 April 2012

anthony worrall thompson's moroccan lamb tagine

I promise you I did not choose this particular recipe for any latent SEO benefits I might reap from people looking up "cheese thief".

In fact it was totally Ana's choice as we've got Mr Peter Magnus Leary coming over for lunch, and I was feeling uninspired. With yet-another "We've got friends coming round, let's bang a roast into the oven" looming, she takes the executive decision and plumps for Le Voleur Fromage's pretty blinking good tagine - and this one gets the full 24 hour marinading!

For once, I think the marinading time does make a difference: the depth of the flavour is really marked, rather than being slightly overpowered by turmeric, and what better way to finish it off than with a large wodge of carrot cake from Carluccio's? I love that other people supply pudding these days...

Certainly it was more successful than our entertaining, (or my posh couscous which was a bit too sloppy) which consisted of making Pete meet us in the park, walk home, play Lego and then slump on the sofa watching Horrible Histories. It turns out we're not very good hosts after all.

Wine Time
There's all sorts of things going on here - spices like cinnamon, dried fruit, acidic tomato and rich, unctuous lamb. Mmm, so what you're probably looking at is an equally complex red, with spice, dried fruit notes, and enough acidity to cut through the fat whilst balancing the fattiness of the lamb: We're talking Rhone. A villages appellation is probably the best place to start, but if you wanted to push the boat out head to one of the premier ACs - I think a ten year old Gigondas or Vacqueyras would nail it. And you'd look classy an all.

moroccan lamb tagine - Anthony Worrall Thompson, BBC Food Site

Saturday, 21 April 2012

kay's sausage & guinness casserole

Booze is a fickle mistress, so we're a bit all over the shop today. I have a little work delivery in the morning, and then whilst Ana combats the explosion of toys/old clothes/washing/washing-up me and the Milo get the shopping in.

Interestingly smoked salmon is back on the shopping list as the other fickle mistress in our house has decided he likes it again, but as long it's not 'cooked'. He's a fool, and a fool and his fish are soon partied.

Anyway, after possibly the longest day in history, complete with Wellington-esque weather, we finally get to relax under with a hearty plate of classic sausage & Guinness casserole, and the latest Skandi Crime Sensation on BBC4, Broen. Is it as good as The Killing? I'm not sure yet, but the quantity of nudity and sexytime ensures next week's viewing...

Back to the point though: Sausage casserole - mmmmmm.

Wine Time
Difficult one to match this, mainly because there's a whole bottle of stout in the mixer, which is quite an overpowering flavour, plus there's all the apple and smokey notes from the sausages and bacon. I'm going to say 'ale' or indeed more stout works well, but if pushed I'm going to go with a big, spicy red - maybe a Syrah/Shiraz? I'm slightly unsure.

sausage and Guinness casserole - It's a Kay McCarthy special, from the Black Book

Friday, 20 April 2012

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's warm salad of mushrooms and roasted squash

So, Ana's out tonight with the laydeez having cocktails (and cote de boef it turns out) in The Depot, and having completely crashed out with Milo after dropping Ana off, I'm keen to put myself back to bed. Only this time using the tried-and-trusted method of two bottles of vino collapso, and a good book.

However, that two hour power nap peps me up slightly more than I had allowed for. So rather than getting an early night I end up, well, updating the blog at 01:16 having first watched the Osprey's put the Dragons to the Sword on BBC Wales (Shane Williams: Legend), slightly drunkenly collecting Ana on the Best Bike Ever, listening to the Horrible Histories soundtrack, and then phoning Dr Robert Peter Manwaring. An Englishman.

Fortunately for the purposes of this blog, I also managed to squeeze in a little experimental creation which despite my drunken fumbling with a very-large-but-mercifully-slightly-blunt knife, was bloody delicious. Behold Saint Hugh's Warm Salad of Mushrooms and Roasted Squash:

I have to say, despite being one bottle of Rioja, one bottle of Vouvray and a cheeky sloe gin down, it really is lovely: Rich and earthy, but offset by the creaminess of the blue cheese, and the peppery-ness of the rocket. Not for nothing is it in the 'Hearty Salad' section, and we'll be having this again, hopefully when I'm not as drunk - although does that matter?

Wine Time
Rioja and Vouvray. And Sloe Gin. Although if you're being sensible, a light red would work really well, so actually a young Rioja, or maybe a Cote du Rhone to offset the pepper of rocket and the seasoning.

warm salad of mushrooms of roasted squash - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg! Everday, p94

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

ottolenghi's roast chicken and three rice salad

It's all go today, particularly as everybody has gone into hiding in the office leaving only two of us to man the phones, sort out logistical spaghetti, write thought-provoking blogs about Rioja, eat large baguettes from our favourite French ladies on Fulham Road, and try premium South African Wines. Who said the wine trade was hard?

By the time I get home, in the pouring rain mind, a newly-accepted-into-school little boy is passed out, and his mother looks like she's about five minutes behind him. She bravely soldiers through though, and from her throne on the sofa she commands wine and chocolate be bought to her during the bits of time I'm not creating possibly her favourite meal: Yottam Ottolenghi's roast chicken and three rice salad. Although we only use one rice of course, but you've all been here long enough to know that!

Though I say it myself, it's a pretty flipping good edition: Zingy, spicy, refreshing and filling. So I was slightly taken aback by Her Maj asking where the Fino chorizo and cherry tomato salad was. Why I oughta, back o' my hand!

Lady Muck's irrational demands aside, I love the fact it's warm enough to start eating this again even if it is turfing it down. It's a lovely dish to make, and delivers spades of flavour for pretty minimal effort. Hopefully this year I might get around to trying another of his recipes, there's a griddled courgette salad I've got my eye, so maybe next week the 'Ottolenghi' tag might make it past one dish...

Wine Time
It's a full-bodied, spicy little number this, bulked out by creamy chicken and carby rice, so if we'd had it in the fridge, an oily, fruity Kiwi Pinot Gris, which has a touch of residual sugar amongst the acidity and tropical fruit, would've been perfect. We had half a bottle of knackered Riesling though, which worked pretty well.

yotam ottolenghi's roast chicken and three-rice salad - Delicious, July 2008, p64

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

roast chicken and other stories

Having got rid of two chicken carcasses from the freezer, of course the next logical step is to make up the difference with another one, as if the remaining 10 are now lonely...

The original plan was to knock up another serving of Billy G's utterly-blydi-divine quick roast chicken with white wine and shallots. However curiously for a house now entirely funded by hooch, we didn't have any wine, so we're fell back to a sort-of approximation of Simon Hopkinson's classic roast chicken recipe (feat StarVest's Lucy Ferguson and the BBC's Louise Pepper).

It's funny how quickly a dish that has been completely in our top ten for the past three years, and one I really looked forward to cooking, has now been superseded within a matter of weeks by the new version, and to the extent I was genuinely annoyed I had to make it. Or maybe that was the lack of booze? Anyway, it's even stranger when you think roasting a chicken was merely a means to an end to another fantastic meal using the left-overs: Yottam Ottolenghi's roast chicken and three rice salad - Roll on Wednesday!

Still, roast chicken and an avocado salad with a beautiful wife, what's not to like? Even if she is stressing about tomorrow's school application results?

Wine Time
After Easter Sunday's finishing off of the Christmas Box, there's only one thing I want at the moment with roast chicken: Puligny-Montrachet. However I've drunk my 2009 and let's face it none of us are £30 bottle of wine people, but the point remains: Creamy, warming, toasty Chardonnay loves roast chicken. Find any fairly good White Burgundy - and there plenty in the £9 zone - and you won't go wrong.

Monday, 16 April 2012

peter gordon's fried halloumi topped with chilli, spinach, water chestnut, hazelnut, orange and sun-blushed tomato salad

Hold on to your hats: Tonight rather than Ana going to Bikini Blitz I have joined the sweaty, lung-scraping, spleen-clenching Monday evening craze that's sweeping East Shene!

I know I know, what does a veritable Hercules of a man, who is no stranger to the alliterative prefix 'rippling' need to lose weight for? Well, let's face it we're all getting older; 40 next year, and the wine trade is hardly conducive to being trim, but what really sealed it was spending an hour on my induction session hacking my guts up, and clutching my shoulder or groin, and lagging in second last position for most of the evening. And then eating my body weight in meat and potatoes at Lia's. At least I didn't feel physically sick this time.

Anyway, the upshot is I need something super-quick to cook on my return. Or least something that is allowed time to marinade/toast whilst I shower, and then just needs to be thrown together whilst drip dry, and at the same time something which will offset recent Easter Egg ingestion. Voila!

I've discovered the trick to this dish, is actually to double up the orange, so everybody gets one each, and you can also throw in a good handful of cherry tomatoes, plus the grilling of the cheese of course. It's all grist to the filling-yet-zesty-and-healthy-salad mill.

Wine Time
Obviously tonight it's Powerades all round, but usually I suspect a good tropical Sauvvy B would be perfect! It's the combination of prickly tropical fruit like passion fruit, paw paw and mango, plus the high acidity to neuter the lemon juice and orange, that really makes it fit. If you burn the chilli/garlic of course, it's all knackered but a properly tropical Kiwi SB might just about cover that off. Or Lucozade sport of course.

fried halloumi topped with chilli, spinach, water chestnut, hazelnut, orange and sun-blushed tomato salad - Peter Gordon, Salads - The New Main Course, p65

Saturday, 14 April 2012

pancetta-wrapped salmon and asparagus

There's something rotten in the state of Mortlake. I can't put my finger on it but there's a high-level of bickering going on today.

Obviously it's all Ana's fault, as woman she's prone to irrationality, but she makes up for it by cooking one of her specialties whilst I'm dahn the booze with Al from down the road. I'm still having her done mind, it must be the hormones affecting her mind!

Once again, it's as good cold as it is hot, which is just as well as effectively we were in a lock-in, and only the fact we knew our children would be up at stupid-o'clock meant we chickened out and came home.

pancetta-wrapped salmon with griddled asparagus and lime creme fraiche - Delicious, June 2010, p23

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

vietnamese beef noodle soup

Okay, after last night's false start tonight is the night we get healthy. Ana even says she feels healthy eating it, so the pounds must be dropping off with each spoonful, particularly that packet of Percy Pigs and extra-calorific M&S doorstop I ate at lunchtime. Swings, roundabouts.

I love it, mainly because it's one of those dishes with maximum flavour quotient to minimum prep time. Not only that it positively vibrates with healthy things; ginger, chilli, lemon grass and other fragrant Asian spices, the beef is ridiculously tender and even better, it's ready in about 20 minutes tops!

Healthy, quick and leaves you enough room to have some chocolate for pudding - what's not to like?

vietnamese beef noodle soup - Waitrose Kitchen, Feburary 2012, p88

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

jamie oliver's proper bloke's fusilli

After yet another weekend of excess, this time Chez Copestake in the finest of Counties, this week we're definitely starting a healthy dose of de-toxing. Well, restarting anyway. Call it a health re-boot.V.40

Things thrown into the mixer this week include healthy Vietnamese beef noodle salad (feel the pounds dropping off), a Miso Salmon broth (ooh, the health!), and a warm salad of mushrooms and squash (bikini here I come!). We then defrost some sausages and have some bloody pukka proper bloke's fusilli care of not-at-all-chubby J Oliver, whilst Ana gets stuck into the cooking white.

In other, slightly bonkers news, I was idly looking at the website stats this evening and not only did I see Mrs Jackie Collins is one of my top referrers that's not Google (Lor' bless you Jacq Jacq Jacquie!), but even better "Captain Feathersword" is my third most powerful search term! No, I don't get it either, but I love it! A-hoy!

proper bloke's sausage fusilli - Jamie Oliver, Cook With Jamie, p72

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

bill granger's quick roast chicken with white wine and shallots

I think the last six months have probably the most fruitful in terms of unearthing a swathe of amazing, copper-bottom, bang-on, everybody-pleasing recipes.

Saint Hugh's Veg book probably started it all, as did the slow recycling of old magazines, followed by rediscovering Waitrose Illustrated. This weekend flicking through Brenda's cookbooks revealed a clutch of delicious-looking meals from Anjum Anand, and even a repeat of Forever Summer saw a hasty browse for any remaining copies of Nigella's debut.

However, I think this Bill Granger number - and I've seen two different varieties in two different mags - is probably the daddy of them all. I love it! I love jointing the chicken, I love cooking it, I love dipping bread into the juices to 'test' and I love eating it. It's quite possibly the best thing I've seen this year...

Before this point though, we've breakfast and lunch to get through. Well, not lunch per se, but nibbling small children's evening dinner to get us through.

Pancakes for breakfast are a weekend treat, but as I'm off we get stuck in today. I don't have a whisk mind, which forces my inner Celia Imrie into sieving the batter, but I offset this by making faces for Milo:

I used to entertain him with faces in his food loads, I don't know why I've stopped really. Ana tops it off by making an Octopus pancake, which I can't beat. I think from now on it's amusingly arranged food all the way us, which bodes well for the two melons and packet of cherries in the pantry.

Anyway, the pancakes are much more successful than the Toad in the Hole I attempted, again, and burned to the bottom of the dish, again, for his and our neighbour's kids dinner. I know I'm supposed to use a great wodge of fat, but it doesn't seem right to inflict that much lard on the under-5s. Any top tips?

quick roast chicken with white wine and shallots - Bill Granger, Delicious March 2012, p57