Study in Scarlet (and yellow and orange)


Monday, 30 April 2012

For everyone fed up with the grey and gloom.

I've been secretly hoping the Marmite would be used up in time to coincide with my red and yellow tulips.
It's nice when things match don't you think?

These gorgeous little munchies are spiced roasted chickpeas;
500g of cooked chickpeas tossed with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 teaspoon of spices and 1 teaspoon of crunchy sea salt.
Spread on a baking tray and roast at 220°c (200°c fan oven) for about 40 mins.
I used chilli oil and smoked paprika.

Scarlet stew.
This glowing stew is full of tomatoes, peppers, fish and prawns.
Quick and easy to make.
Soften a chopped onion (or use a tub of veg hash) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, ½ - 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a generous pinch of mixed herbs and bay leaf. Add a chopped red pepper. Let it cook together for a minute or two.
Add two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add about 500g of white fish cut into chunks. I used a bag of defrosted frozen fish. Continue to cook for about 10 -15 minutes more. At the last minute add some prawns. As many as you like really. I used 170g of frozen cooked king prawns. You could use raw prawns which will probably be nicer. They take minutes to cook through so be careful not to overcook. I added a handful of black olives at the end too.
Season to taste.

When serving carefully spoon out the fish and the sauce for the one who won't eat prawns or olives.
Then carefully spoon out the fish, prawns and sauce for the one who won't eat olives.
Divide the remaining stew with abandon between the three of you who eat everything.
Be aware that despite this time consuming operation someone will inevitably leave the pepper on their plate.

Serve with focaccia (no, spellchecker I don't mean Fibonacci, good grief) which will be completely devoured.

To make the focaccia (not an authentic Italian recipe)
 Mix 500g of white bread flour, 1 teaspoon of easy-blend yeast, 1 teaspoon of salt and half a pint of warm water (280ml).  Knead for about 4 mins then leave to rise for an hour and a half before punching down and rolling  into a rough rectangle. 
Place on a greased baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and herbs. Drizzle on a tablespoon of olive oil smearing it all over. Press your fingertips into the dough making little dimples.
Bake at 220°c (200°c fan oven) for 15-20 mins.

There was also a jelly made from tinned mandarin oranges. I forgot to photograph it which was a shame because it would have  been a perfect addition to this  post.

Two hours after I picked them the tulips exploded.

Sampler for April. All my photo-samplers can be seen on the sampler page located under the banner picture.

Apologies for yet more pictures of my red and yellow tulips, especially if you have one of my calendars (you'll be seeing more tomorrow). They are the only things flowering in my garden at the moment.

Whan that Aprille....


Sunday, 29 April 2012

with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth 

Quince blossoms blown away by Zephyr

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne 
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne, 
And smale foweles maken melodye,

Smale fowle too wet and windswept to make melodye

That slepen al the nyght with open ye 
 (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, 

I'm not actually longing to go on a pilgrimage. I'm not even keen to go outside to get a bay leaf for the fish stew I'm planning for supper. I think 'shoures soote' and the 'sweete breeth' of Zephirus are something of an understatement Mr Chaucer.

For a translation of Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales look here.

Cake of the Month ~ Banana- hazelnut crumble cake


Thursday, 26 April 2012

I buy bananas. I put them in the fruit bowl. They remain in the fruit bowl until their skins are black. I then put them in the freezer. This is not what I have in mind when I buy them. In my mind's eye I see them yellow, speckled lightly with brown and packed in a lunch box to sustain my children and husband through the rigours of the school/work day. The reality is that they prefer apples.

And that's why there were nine black bananas in my freezer. I vowed to stop buying bananas until I'd used them all up. Banana cake, or bread if you like, is the salvation of black bananas. I've made a few in my time.
Nigel Slater's version with chocolate chunks was excellent. I used pecans in place of the hazelnuts and chopped them roughly rather than grinding finely. Tom, who is very keen on banana cakes thought it was fantastic. Nigella Lawson's version with coconut and cherries from Kitchen was not so successful. Oversweet and undercooked. It wasn't done after the specified time, nor after another ten minutes, fifteen minutes after that I took it out of the oven. The first third of the cake was cooked but the middle was still a gooey mess. I put the remaining cake back in the oven for another twenty-five minutes after which it was still too moist. I like a moist cake but this was too much, even Tom didn't care for it. I ended up throwing it away which is something that has never happened before.

I decided to see what I could come up with. The crunch of nuts in the Nigel Slater cake combined very well with the squidge of the bananas- this is perhaps where the Nigella recipe went wrong. I had plenty of hazelnuts but walnuts and pecans would have worked just as well. I ground them coarsely in the food processor (hazelnuts are difficult to chop on a board), but you could put them in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin so that you get lots of different sized bits. You can't expect to make an edible cake by throwing random amounts of flour and sugar into a bowl so I used the Nigel Slater recipe as a framework and added  some extra crunch to my cake in the form of a nutty crumble topping.

Black bananas freeze well for use in baking but not for much else. After a couple of minutes in the microwave they resemble giant slimy grubs.

Mash them with a fork quick before you start to feel queasy.

Banana-hazelnut crumble cake

Cream together with an electric whisk
6 oz (170g) soft butter
6 oz (170g) caster sugar
When light and fluffy add
2 beaten eggs
Fold in 
6 oz (170g) self-raising flour
Next stir in
2 very ripe bananas, defrosted if frozen and mashed
4 oz (110g) coarsely ground hazelnuts. I toasted mine first and rubbed off as much of the skins as I could in a tea towel.

Pour the mixture into a an 8 inch (20 cm) deep cake tin which you have base-lined and greased.

Now make the crumble
In a bowl put;
2 oz (55g) soft brown sugar
3 oz (85g) plain flour
1 tsp of  ground cinnamon
2 oz (55g) coarsely chopped hazelnuts
Next either 
Rub in 2 oz (55g) butter
stir in 2 oz melted butter
I rubbed in the butter which made the topping very crumbly and apt to fall off as you ate it. If you would prefer your crumble to stay put try the melted butter option which should produce a more clumped together topping. Both will be good.

Sprinkle the crumble over the cake mixture and bake at 180°c (160°c fan oven) for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 mins, or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.

The result was moist but not too much, crunchy, nutty and very moreish.

Tom gave it the thumbs up.



Tuesday, 24 April 2012

White petals

Exuberant tulip

Delicate quince blossom

April showers

Salt and pepper squid.
With squid-hater George away at the weekend we feasted.
I used frozen squid tubes, sliced them into rings, tossed them in a bag of cornflour, sea salt and coarsely crushed black peppercorns before frying them in about half a centimetre of oil.
We ate them hot from the pan with a squeeze of lemon and some bought mayonnaise to which I added more lemon juice and crushed garlic.
Utterly fabulous.

Simple, frugal supper.
Moong dal, chapatti and cucumber raita

Coconut ice cream.
I made this pudding  to use up some double cream leftover from the weekend. It's one of the easiest puddings in the world. Today I had the brilliant idea of pouring it into my ice cream maker.
It was delicious. If only I'd thought to make some chocolate sauce we could have had Bounty sundaes.

Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia in the Danish crime drama The Bridge.

The Bridge
New scandicrime Saturdays on BBC4.
Ooh, this one is good, but then they all are. It's Swedish and Danish. The bridge of the title is Oresund Bridge which links the two countries. Copenhagen and Malmo are only 40 minutes apart. A body is left lying on the bridge across the line which separates Sweden and Denmark. Swedish detective Saga NorĂ©n is in charge assisted by Danish detective Martin Rohde. She has no social skills whatever and appears to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum, his social skills are perhaps a little too good as he has several children by different women. When we meet him he is recovering from a vasectomy. The story quickly becomes complex and compelling.

I'm fascinated by language and I'd love to know which language is used when Swedish and Danish characters are talking. Rohde addresses a roomful of Swedes and is met with a blank stare of incomprehension. He repeats himself slowly and they understand. Is he speaking Swedish with a strong Danish accent or is he speaking Danish too fast for the Swedes to understand?  If there are any Danes or Swedes reading I'd love to know how it all works between you.



Thursday, 19 April 2012

Thrift is such a lovely word to say -thrrr -i- fff- tt.
Such a wonderful meaning too -the quality of being careful and not wasting money or other resources. I'm all for thrift. I also think it is perfectly possible to be extravagant and thrifty at the same time. For example I spent £6 on two bunches of asparagus at the farm shop (I also spent 44p on 2 kg of spuds). The bunches weighed about 300g each. Luckily my children don't like asparagus so Charlie and I had a bunch each. Because they had cost so much I wasn't about to throw away the woody ends of the asparagus spears. 

 You can make soup with them, but I felt they were too woody for that. Time to defrost the roast chicken carcass I had in the freezer and make some stock.

We had a simple fruit salad last night made from tinned fruit and grapes. I saved the juice from the tins. There was just enough to make four lollies. Stashed in the freezer to wait for a sunny day.

Then there was a bit of mending to do. I do a lot of mending. George is the worst offender, but these are Tom's trousers. He didn't want a patch so I put a piece of fabric behind the hole and attempted to stitch the loose threads down onto it. It was more about containing the hole rather than repairing it. Not a completely free repair either. I had to buy matching thread. 'Wear your knee-pads next time you decide to skateboard in your favourite trousers Tom'.

And then are my thrifty flowers from the garden, quite a few of which are actually weeds. 

 These are bleeding hearts or dicentra spectabilis. I always refer to them as  bleedin' 'earts.

 A parrot tulip, some pink campions, for-get-me-nots, pulmonaria and meadowsweet.

Kitchen Round Up


Monday, 16 April 2012

A round-up of the various leftovers in my fridge and freezer this morning resulted in;

one portion of chilli con carne
one portion of sausage casserole (minus the sausages)
one third of a bag of baby spinach leaves
two handfuls of elderly mushrooms
three sprouty spuds
two scabby looking carrots
two tubs of beef broth

A round up of the money in my purse and bank account was less fruitful. There was no money for ham or salami and I was saving the cheese for something other than lunchbox sandwiches. What to give the hoards for their lunches? I had plenty of tuna but they won't eat that

Pasties. Who doesn't love a pasty?
I diced and boiled the potatoes, cooked the mushroom and spinach with some cumin and coriander and made  three Indian inspired pasties. Charlie will enjoy them.

The chilli and sausage casserole yielded two pasties each. The children will enjoy them.

The leftover beef broth was a by-product of the dish below which we had a couple of weeks ago.
It's a piece of beef brisket which I slow-cooked in beer with carrots and mushrooms.

After we had enjoyed the beef I froze the broth..
There was leftover beef of course which I chopped small and made into a bolognese style sauce for spaghetti.
This evening I defrosted the broth and used it to cook equal quantities of green lentils and barley risotto style. I added some of my vegetable hash and the scabby carrots. Brown and worthy-looking maybe but every bit was devoured.

I love using up my leftovers, especially when the results are so tasty.

Random Deliciousness


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I'm always looking for new ways to use leftover roast chicken. This is chicken, bacon and avocado salad. 
The base of the salad is a bag of mixed leaves. On top of the leaves I scattered chopped chicken, crisply cooked bacon, chopped avocado, a segmented orange, diced red pepper and some sliced red onions.
I drizzled it all with a simple dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, a little honey and some Dijon mustard.
Roasting the peppers would have been an improvement but it was still delicious.

 Today I made myself another salad for lunch. I call it storecupboard salad because most of the ingredients were in my cupboards.

It's a tin of tuna, a tin of cannellini* beans, a few bottled artichoke hearts, some chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a handful of black olives. A little parsley and some sliced red onion finished it off. I didn't make a dressing because the artichokes and the dried tomatoes had oil on them already. 
I piled this salad on top of some salad leaves.

I made these little beauties for our supper this evening.
They are chickpea flatbreads from the wonderful Eggs on the Roof blog.
They were such fun to make (such fun!). They are made from chickpea flour which is also called gram flour. They are more like pancakes than bread, soft and spongy. 
I made a few adjustments to Charlie's recipe.
I thought 6 would not be nearly enough for my ravenous hoards so I doubled the recipe.
My small non-stick frying pan is not as non-stick as it used to be and I found I needed to put a little olive oil in the pan. This gave the breads a lovely crisp edge.

We ate them topped with slow-cooked red onions, a fried egg and some crumbled feta.
A little hot sauce on the egg was the perfect finishing touch.

They really were delicious. 
Vegan and gluten-free too, and presumably full of protein from the chickpeas.

*That is how you spell cannellini Mr Spellchecker, and no I do not mean cannelloni which is a kind of pasta. Hmmph!



Tuesday, 10 April 2012

 Between the showers of rain and hail Katie and I visited the little wood near our house to see if the bluebells were blooming. On our way we found numerous patches of blue speedwell in the grass. Such a pretty little flower. There were daisies too and plenty of dandelions.

In the wood we found bluebells, wood anemones, celandines, jack-by-the-hedge and meadowsweet.

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