Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Fish Pie

It was at about 11 o'clock this morning that I realised that Z and I had, once again, managed not to discuss our evening meal.  Rather than contact her directly I told the world of twitter, or at least that part of it that chooses to follow me.

The responses and suggestions that I received were varied to say the least.  Slow cooked Chinese beef stew and spaghetti and meatballs stood out as worthy meals but I knew the answer had to lie at home.  I eventually made contact with Z and got the ball rolling.

She found, in our second freezer*, a decent sized portion of leftover fish pie.  It would have made a great meal for one but it wasn't quite enough for two.  Armed with this knowledge I went shopping on my way home from town.

I managed to find some cod to add body to the pie and some nice looking tender stem broccoli.  Unfortunately the broccoli was imported from Kenya.  Sometimes you have to be a bit flexible with your standards but I'd rather not see food go to waste after it has travelled so far.

*we all have two freezers, right? I don't think we could function without our second freezer.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Chicken Miso Soup

...Or The tale of two soups.

I was in a rush leaving the house this morning.  I hadn't left myself enough time to make lunch before I set off, so I grabbed an emergency packet of soup and went on my merry way.  It wasn't until lunch time that I discovered that the packet that I had selected was "chicken noodle".

This is one of my preferred flavours and on any other day it would have been very welcome.  Not today however.  Today we had planned chicken noodle soup for our evening meal.  As luck, and a fair amount of nous in the kitchen, would have it, the two soups were as different as chalk and cheese.

The soup I had for lunch was a Chinese style chicken and sweetcorn soup and consisted of rehydrated powder and noodles.  The soup that we cooked for tonight's menu was made with fresh ingredients and miso paste.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Vegetable Curry

For some reason, having had a foodie* weekend we find ourselves culinarily embarrassed this evening.  We simply forgot to think about what we were going to cook for tonight's meal.  Having got home and inspected the contents of the fridge and store cupboards we settled on a curry.

We cook quite a few curries these days.  Most of them have an air of authenticity about them.  Tonight was not one of those days.  This curry took me back to my student days, days when a curry was made of the contents of the fridge and a generous shake from the packet of supermarket-own-brand curry powder.

Some things have changed since graduation.  The fridge now has more contents.  This means that throwing together a coherent meal is easier.  The store cupboard is also much better stocked.  There is no packet of curry powder, in its place are a variety of spices which make every curry an adventure.

Having cooked the curry with cabbage, peppers, onions, celery, a tin each of tomatoes and chick peas, the only decision was bread or rice.  We went for bread but only because we had a naan in the freezer.

*I hate that term.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mackerel with Rhubarb

We spent yesterday at the Wakefield Food, Drink and Rhubarb Festival, seeking out some of the finest produce the region has to offer.  We didn't find much of it but what we did find was top draw.  This included rhubarb from E Oldroyd & Sons.  I love rhubarb but always have it as a dessert, which is why it hasn't featured too often on Tonight's Menu.

I had noticed the combination of fish and rhubarb on Food and Biscuits' review of Create, a restaurant with a concience in Leeds.  I loved the sound of the sour, sharp fruit cutting through the oily salty fish.  I didn't have to think twice about what we were going to cook.

Simply fried mackerel served with roasted rhubarb, boiled potatoes and mixed stir-fried greens made a great Sunday lunch for the three of us.  I don't know why I've not used rhubarb with savoury food before.  It would go equally well with pork as fish and I'll be trying it out a lot more.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Cheese and Biscuits

It's been a foodie kind of day in one way or another.  This weekend saw the annual Wakefield Food, Drink and Rhubarb Festival take place and I was not going to miss it.  The fact that I didn't know it existed, until somebody on twitter mentioned that it was happening, is neither here nor there.

At a food event in Leeds last year I tasted Chocolate Orange Chilli Jam made by The Chilli Jam Man.  At the time I was financially embarrassed to the extent that I couldn't justify purchasing the small jar of delight.  This weekend I was on a mission.

We took the train to Wakefield, so that the "beer" part of the festival could be enjoyed, and made for the Cathedral precinct where the stalls where laid out.  I won't lie to you, I was a little underwhelmed.  regardless of the range and quality of the purveyors' stalls, they were situated far too close together.  Fighting through a tight crowd with a pushchair is tricky at the best of times, but also having to negotiate stairs was a pain too far.  There is a lot of Wakefield that has been pedestrianised and this should have been used to spread the stalls out and give everybody the chance to partake, I'm certain the stall holders would have appreciated more time and space to interact with us punters.

Back home, Z had plans to go out and leave me holding the baby.  Sadly her plans were scuppered by the onslaught of a cold that had been festering all week.  We were going to have a quick pasta dish before she hit the tiles but eating, as well as drinking, was off the menu.

We decided, in the end, to tuck into the cheese we bought in Wakefield.  Cryer and Stott were at the last Homage 2 Fromage with their wonderful Ruby Gold rhubarb cheese.  I had waxed lyrical at Z about just how good it was, so finding their stall at the festival was a stroke of luck.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday Night Take-away - Piri Piri Chicken

Yesterday we went around to a friend's house for our evening meal.  Out of politeness and good grace I decided not to post about the meal.  This is only fair as before the meal they did not know that I had a blog, never mind a daily food one*.  Of course the subject came up over the course of the evening.

Host "What have you been doing lately?"
Me "Nothing much, spend most of my time writing about the food we eat on my food blog."
Host "What? You're kidding right? You have a food blog?"
Me "Yes, really.  It's not recipes, just the story behind the evening meal.  Why we've cooked it, where the inspiration comes from etc."
Host "You're not going to write about this meal are you?"
Me "No. That would be unfair."

So having only broken a promise a little bit, I'll move onto tonight's menu.  As it's Friday we're sticking to the cook at home take-away tradition and tonight we're having piri piri chicken.  The piri piri is a relative new comer to the take-away menus that flop with all too regular an occurrence through our letter box.  This is due to the success of one national chain of restaurants who, believe it or not, are South African in origin.

My first experience of said chain was through a friendly Portuguese who recommended them, not on the strength of the chicken but on the authentic custard tarts that you can order for dessert.  Sadly they are all too often sold out of these cracking little puds to make it worth visiting these days.  The fact that they now cover Leeds like a rash also puts me off**.

The marinade for the chicken can now be bought off the shelf in supermarkets up and down the country but I prefer to make my own.  It is more like making a hot vinaigrette than most marinades; lots of oil and vinegar, garlic, a sweet red pepper and oregano, all simmered together.  Only once the pepper is cooked do you remove from the heat.  At this point add lemon juice and as much chilli as you and your loved ones can handle.

Once the sauce is completely cool blend it to within an inch of its life then pour over whatever piece of chicken you have to hand.  We had a couple of chicken legs left over from our last Swillington Farm meat box.  To keep with the restaurant experience we had our chicken with skinny fries, corn on the cob and coleslaw.  The chips and corn were from the freezer, the coleslaw was home made so that I didn't feel quite so dirty.

*For the record we had a cracking beef stew with great roasties and a chocolate bread and butter pudding for dessert.  Thank you Laura and Mark.
**Give me an independent restaurant any day.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Thai Green Prawn Curry

I've been looking back over the Tonight's Menu archive.  Not to see what we haven't eaten recently but to check how often we eat certain food types.  In my head we eat Thai curries quite regularly.  The reality is far from the truth.

The last time we cooked Thai it was a red curry and I noted at the time that we normally cook green curries.  Two months later and this is the first time we've eaten green curry since Tonight's Menu began.  We used to buy ready made curry pastes but they were always disappointing, neither hot or sour enough.  These days we make our own from scratch.

We make a paste by grinding together garlic, ginger, chillies, lime juice and zest, spring onions, coriander and a little oil.  We then add this to fried onions and green peppers to cook out the raw ingredients.  After a couple of minutes we add a tin of coconut milk and let everything simmer together with some soy and fish sauce.  The final ingredient is the prawns, which take no time to cook. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Crispy Pancakes

There was a time before this blog.  It seams like an aeon ago.  In reality it's only 4 months past that I started a daily update on the food that we eat.  We have always* eaten well.  On the odd occasion, when we were feeling particularly proud of our creations, we would even photograph the meals.

Tonight I am recreating a meal that I made a year ago on this very night.  In fact, it is a recreation of childhood memories.  The crispy pancake.  To me this falls into the same category of food as Campbell's Meatballs and Bernard Matthews Golden Drummers.  These were the midweek meals that we ate in front of the telly watching Knightmare or Jossy's Giants.

Now that I'm all grown up, I look back on those innocent meals with a mix of emotions.  The kid in me still longs for things wrapped in breadcrumbs and served with a dollop of tomato ketchup.  The food-bore in me, who knows all about the campaign to ban the Turkey Twizzler, would rather I'd had different favourites as a child.

Last year, in a peak of nostalgia, I decided that I wanted more than lemon juice and sugar on my pancakes.  I wanted to recreate the meals of my youth.  We made the pancakes in the standard fashion and filled them with a basic beef and tomato sauce.  That is where things became interesting.  I knew before I had even started that I was going to dip the folded, stuffed, pancakes, in beaten egg and breadcrumbs, before shallow frying them.  I'd done this before with chicken goujons and fillets of fish, what could go wrong?

Until you have handled a 12" diameter pancake stuffed with mince and tried to pané it you won't understand. To say that it was difficult to handle is an understatement. The pancake was so delicate that a wrong turn would end up with the filling all over the floor, or worse, in the egg mix.  It took some doing but I managed it.

Tonight I have learned from my previous effort and amended the technique.  Knowing how late we tend to eat these days, we got ahead of ourselves on Sunday.  Z, the master of eggs in these parts, knocked up a batch of pancakes using a much smaller frying pan than last year.  I made a chicken and mushroom filling and we froze the lot.

All that was left to do today (after defrosting) was to build the pancakes and cook.  The smaller pancakes made all the difference.  Now that I'm a grown, up I have substituted boiled new potatoes and broccoli for the chips and baked beans of my childhood.  As midweek meals go this is a bit of a faff but for one day a year it's fun to encourage the inner-child and pull some food-wheelies in the process.

*Certainly for the last eight years or so.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagne

There is an awful lot being said about eating less meat these days.  Even celebrity chefs are extolling the virtues of eating more vegetables in place of meat, in an attempt to save the planet from our over dependence on cheap beef.  I'm all in favour of this and as such we are eating less meat.  We try, where possible, to eat higher welfare meat so that when we do tuck into a steak it's a really good one.  It's our way of helping out. 

Dutch scientists have taken a different approach.  To aid our apparent obsession with red meat, those crazy men in white coats have managed to grow muscle tissue in a petri dish.  Their apparent end-game is a completely lab created burger.  I'm in two minds about this and the flippant one wonders if the scientists shouldn't be doing something more valid with their research grants than playing Build A Better Burger.

That aside tonight's menu is a vegetarian one.  Roasted pumpkin, fried onions, ricotta and tomato sauce, all seasoned with sage, are layered with sheets of pasta and baked.  There is not a sniff of meat anywhere near this lasagne.  It's far from vegan but I don't love the planet that much.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Linguine alla Vongole

Tonight's menu was destined to be something completely different.  Before setting out on Saturday to Leeds Markets, Z and I had discussed the weekend's meals and realised that we really wanted fish.  Specifically, mackerel cooked with a lemon and black pepper crumb.

We walked up and down Fish Row,  but honestly, the mackerel didn't look all that great.  The sea bass looked incredible as did the whole salmon which were being sold for £20.00 each.  We couldn't decide what to buy and my culinary imagination wasn't firing so we wandered off to purchase the week's fruit and veg.

We eventually returned to Fish Row because we are determined to eat more fish than we currently do.  On route we mulled over what we could cook with some of the good looking fish.  That was when I realised the one thing that had excited me wasn't a fish at all.  It was clams.  Every stall had piles of them.  They must have snuck into my peripheral vision at some point on our initial browse.

I knew instantly what I wanted to cook so the decision was made.  Linguine alla Vongole* is such a quick and simple dish to prepare I really should make it more often.  The clams cook in seconds in softened onions, dried chilli and a glass of white wine.  Chopped parsley is then added before the cooked pasta is coated in the light sauce.  You can add parmesan if you want but this is the one Italian dish that doesn't need it.

*Linguine with clams

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Sausage and Bean Stew

I've been looking forward to tonight for ages.  I'm not an avid watcher/listener of The Proms when they are on, except for the last night which I watch religiously.  Last year, for one reason or another, I managed to watch a good five or six of the televised broadcasts from The Royal Albert Hall.  They tended to be the off-piste prom's (Dr Who and the Comedy Prom amongst them) but one really stood out. 

The Spaghetti Western Orchestra are a five piece troupe of excellent, multi talented musicians, who clearly adore the music of Ennio Morricone.  I have gone on record in the past to say that I didn't like Westerns but clearly this doesn't include the music.  Watching the Prom (on a night that I was baby sitting) I was giddy as a kipper.  Z got home late but the following morning I replayed the concert to her and we were both astounded by just how good the music sounded and by how good the musicians were.

If you weren't aware, we are currently in the middle of The Leeds International Concert Festival.  I'd seen posters about the events in the past but not really paid any attention, that was until a brochure for this year's line-up fell through my letter box.  In an idle moment I started to flick through and there, staring out at me from the pages, were The Spaghetti Western Orchestra.  There and then I knew we were going, there was only the small matter of a babysitter to sort.

Our first attempts to find a sitter were unfruitful and once we had found a willing friend* I attempted to buy the tickets.  They had all but sold out and we ended up on the back row of the balcony.  This, it turns out, is not a bad thing.  We had a cracking view and the acoustics were brilliant.  An added bonus was the fact that the Grand Pipe Organ of Leeds Town Hall was used during one of the renditions.  That organ has some serious pipes and the music flows into your heart and soul.

So what, if anything does this have to do with tonight's menu?  Well, due to the start time of the concert, and the imminent arrival of the baby sitter, we decided that we should eat early.  Nothing was more fitting than a cowboy-style sausage and bean stew.  A one pot, open fire, camp-site wonder to keep you warm whilst looking out for cattle rustlers.

I fried off bacon, onions and sausages before adding black-eye and pinto beans, onions and tinned tomatoes.  To give that camp fire aroma I added oregano and smoked paprika.  All that was missing was some fine gulping whisky, the stars above our heads and the unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake in the distance.

*Thank you Rebecca

Friday, 17 February 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese

You may not have noticed but I really enjoy cooking.  There are exceptions to this rule.  I'm not keen on cooking for just one person.  Cooking for two is fine as I feel more in control of the ingredients,  herbs, spices and sauces work better.  Cooking for four is probably when I'm at my most confident.

This fact is probably why we eat portions that are a bit generous.  When we are good and don't stuff our faces we do manage to save the leftovers and freeze them for those times when the cupboards are bare or time is too tight to cook a big meal.

Tonight falls into the bare cupboard category.  A quick nose around the freezer turned up two curries and a bolognese sauce.  Z had a curry last night while I was out at Homage 2 Fromage so spag bol it was.  I also found a ciabatta in the freezer, which was nice.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Homage 2 Fromage

The first rule of Cheese Club is you must talk about Cheese Club and I don't like breaking rules.  Tonight was the fifth Homage 2 Fromage and Yorkshire cheese was the star of the show.  I was staggered with the range and variety of cheeses on offer from the region.

We had six very different cheeses to taste.  They ranged from the incredibly buttery through to intensely salty with beer and blue thrown in to really test the taste buds.  We were then treated to Yorkshire's own Ewe's milk rhubarb cheese, a cheese that is so seasonal that we were tasting cheese that was only a few weeks old. 

Along with getting to eat fantastic cheese, Homage 2 Fromage has given me the opportunity to meet some really nice people.  Not everybody is a fromageaphile but everyone at cheese club leaves happy.  Next month Irish cheese is on offer.  You can't stand on ceremony at Cheese Club or all you'll get is crumbs.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Gammon, Egg and Chips

Just had a quick flick through the archives and found that we last had this meal on the 15th December 2011.  There are many similarities between that meal and Tonight's.  The gammon is the same product of Swillington Farm and the eggs are fried to perfection*.

For a change I decided to make my own oven chips.  It's simple enough, but takes a little longer than cooking those from the freezer.  Making your own means that you can mess about a bit.  I messed about by adding a parsnip to the potatoes.  This led to an exciting Russian roulette situation where you didn't know if the next bite would be savoury or sweet**.

*even if I do say so myself.  You need to get the frying pan and oil very hot then turn down the heat as you add the eggs.  You also need a lot more oil than you think.  If you skimp on the oil the eggs will stick.
**Don't try this if you don't like parsnip.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentines Day - Tapas

Imagine my delight, a couple of weeks ago, when I asked Z what she would like cooking for her Valentines Day meal and she responded "Tapas".  We have an affinity with Spanish food.  Spain, actually Catalonia (really it's Barcelona) has been part of our life for years.

Our first trip abroad together was to Barcelona.  It was on that trip that I proposed on bended knee and Z said yes.  At the time I was keeping a small and under used journal.  Making notes on life and jotting down the odd musing.  That day I wrote the following:

How do you say...
This is the first holiday I've had where my lack of language has been frustrating.  All other trips to Spain have been with Spanish speakers or with family (Dad did the talking).  Should we have gone to France or Germany Z's knowledge would have rendered me speechless but secure in the knowledge that we would have got what we wanted.  
This time our 'pigeon Spanish' has not caused problems but extended uncomfortable silences between ourselves and various staff whose English is worse than mine.  
My own personal bug-bear has been "can I have the bill please?"  I can only presume my Scottish genes prevent me from offering to splash the cash however, now day 4, I'm getting the hang of "la cuenta, por favour" all though I still need to check every time.
The only other phrase I struggled with was "Will you marry me?".  I know this is easy to say and write but when you want the moment to be perfect the simple sentence can be v. difficult to spit out.  Fortunately the response was correct.

Since that day we have been back to Barcelona so often that the city now feels like an old pair of slippers, instantly comfortable and welcoming.  This is why tapas for Valentines Day is so apt.

Patatas Bravas, Pulpo and Gambas con Chorizo* were the stars of our meal, served with salad and bread.  We also had a cheeky bottle of Freixenet.  We actually prefer cava to champagne, but that's just us and possibly our affinity with Spain.

*Roast potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, octopus in olive oil and prawns fried with chorizo.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Christening Weekend

It has been a long and exhausting weekend.  We have had guests from as far afield as Poole and Edinburgh.  In total 6 adults and 3 children (toddlers and babies) all managed to sleep in our little house in South Leeds without any bloodshed or arguments.  We also managed to organise a table for our household plus an additional 8 grown-ups in one of Leeds' many superb pubs for Sunday Lunch.

"Why did you do all of this?" I hear you ask.  The clue is in the title but allow me to delve into more detail.  Sunday 12th February 2012 was the date that my first born son was baptised.  I'm not overtly religious but I am a traditionalist at heart.  I was baptised as a child and I have Godparents, I am a Godparent myself to my beautiful niece.  Z and I were married in a church not a field.  I take no umbrage at field weddings, I have been to two and they were both really good weddings, but they are not for me.

I am however, getting ahead of myself.  Due to the arrival of various family members at varying times this blog has taken a hit.  I have not had time to update Tonight's Menu since last Wednesday, tonight I aim to make amends.

Thursday 9th February
Penne with Leeks

The first of our guests to arrive for the weekend would be my Mum*.  She wouldn't get into Leeds until late on Friday but that left precious little time for giving the house the kind of clean reserved for royalty and Mothers-in-law.  To facilitate the uber-hoover we needed a quick meal.

After the curry a few nights ago, all that was left in the fridge by the way of vegetables was a solitary leek.  The leek was shredded and fried in butter.  I added the end of the roast pork from the weekend and controversially two leftover sage and onion stuffing balls.  The stuffing worked as great seasoning.  The sauce was finished with half a pot of crème fraiche and stirred through penne pasta.

Friday 10th February
Friday Night Take-away - Beef and Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce

Incoming relatives or no incoming relatives, there are some things that just don't change.  Our ongoing tradition to eat home-made take-away style food on Friday nights is normally one of the highlights of the week.  For obvious reasons there is a food-eclipsing highlight this week.  This simple stir-fry was very good though.

Strips of rump steak were fried with a small onion and a green pepper before some superb black bean and chilli sauce was added.  I have said it before and I'll probably say it again, Leeds has some very good Chinese supermarkets.  There is no excuse for poor sauces in this city.

Saturday 11th February

On Saturday we were joined by the remainder of our house guests.  My little brother, his wife and two children arrived around lunch time.  There was no way that we could transport them all home from Leeds Railway Station so Graeme and I fell on our swords and walked home.  We did have one task to complete on our journey and that was to deliver the Christening cake to the pub for Sunday.

Somehow we lost a couple of hours on our way home.  By the time we got back Z had already started cooking the evening meal.  With 6 adults to feed we decided that a single pot of a slow cooked stew would be the way forward, an 'everything thrown in together and ignore' type dish.  This way we managed to spend some quality time together before we sat down for a meal.

As luck would have it, a chance conversation with my German caretaker brought up the subject of goulash.  I haven't had goulash since school dinners way back in the annals of time.  The recipe he gave me was simplicity itself.  Equal quantities of beef and pork (I got braising steak and pork shoulder), two onions, three peppers, two tins of tomatoes and stock.

I had been told to season and add herbs that I like, this really is my kind or recipe.  The one thing I was told I couldn't leave out is paprika.  I was also told that the longer it cooked the better.  In total we probably cooked the goulash for 4 hours.  I wish we had rediscovered goulash earlier during winter.  I have a feeling that we'll not cook this again for sometime but I will be looking forward to it.

Sunday 12th February
Roast Beef

The big day finally arrived for us.  We knew that we wanted to have R christened even before we knew what gender he was but I was still nervous.  What if he cried in church?  What if he refused to go to the Minister?  What if he had one of those delightful accidents that can clear rooms?  I should have known that R would do me proud and that I would have nothing to worry about but I reserve the right to worry.

We had held a full on kiddie party, including a finger buffet, for R's first birthday so we didn't need to go there, again**.  As I pointed out earlier I'm a traditional kinda guy and I really wanted a family occasion on a Sunday to include a Sunday Lunch.  We had booked a table for 19 at The Midnight Bell, Leeds Brewery's flagship pub.

This is not a review site so if you would like to see a review of The Midnight Bell's Sunday offerings you will have to check elsewhere.  However, I will go on record to say that the food was superb, the beer was awesome and the staff couldn't have been more helpful.  R and I shared my starter of spiced whitebait and he let me have most of my roast beef with all the trimmings.

We bought the cake from Donna Makes Cakes, an independent cake maker and decorator from Belle Isle, after a recommendation from a friend.  Donna worked with Z's brief to make a stunning chocolate mud cake that really finished off the meal.  Back at home we finished the day grazing on cheese and biscuits.

Monday 13th February
Gnocchi with Pesto

The final meal in our marathon weekend was another that needed to take no time to prepare and moments to cook.  Mum's train back to Auld Reekie (that's Edinburgh, not an elderly dog), Z's evening of babysitting and R's bed time were all due at 7pm.

Another food blogger, Big Spoon, Little Spoon, had cooked gnocchi last weekend and inspired me.  I know Mum doesn't like goats cheese so I decided to use pesto for the sauce and added some chicken and tomatoes.  This was the first time Mum had eaten gnocchi so it's a shame they were shop bought and not that great.  Later in the year I'll be making huge batches from scratch so I'll cook her some more then.

All told I have had a brilliant yet exhausting weekend.  If you were involved in any part of it, guest, host, family or friend; thanks. It wouldn't have been the same without you.

*Hello Mum.
**Nor will be going there again any time soon.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tray baked Italian Pork Loin Steaks

Tonight's menu is based around the pork loin steaks that I removed from the freezer this morning.  When I left the house that was as much as I knew.  By the time I returned home from work, I still didn't know what we were going to eat.

I'd assumed that we would be having the pork grilled, with boiled potatoes and some kind of simple steamed vegetables.  I was dreading writing about that meal.  Then while giving R his bath we started discussing rubbing spices on the pork.  Having had curry last night we didn't fancy an Indian twist.  Nor were we excited by Moorish influences.

The decision boiled down to the potatoes that we both realised needed using.  Roasting the spuds and loin steaks with basil and oregano gave an Italian edge to the meal.  Cooking shredded cabbage with garlic and chilli flakes completed a meal even mama would love.

Vegetable Curry

There are occasions when you just need to use up all of those vegetables that are in the fridge.  I'm not advocating cooking without due care and attention.  I am advocating making the most of the food that is to hand.

After checking the store cupboards it was clear that a curry was the way forward.  I wouldn't call it an authentic curry but I did choose the spices with the vegetables in mind.  Most curries I cook start with mustard seeds but not tonight.  I felt that the flavour would have been to earthy and mask the sweetness of the veg.

The base of the sauce consisted of a finely chopped red onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli.  These were fried together with a tomato which added liquid and thickened the mixture.  The first of the vegetables, butternut squash, along with a tin of chick peas and some water was added and left to simmer until tender.

The curry was then finished with a tin of coconut milk some leftover roast sweet potato and two bunches of spinach.  If I had planned this curry and been out to buy the ingredients I probably would have omitted the squash and sweet potato.  I would have included paneer and fresh coriander and ended up with a completely different meal.  I'm glad I didn't because this curry was great.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Pumpkin Risotto

Tonight's challenge was to use the final foodie spoil from this weekends Cornucopia, Pumpkin Oil.  I knew that there would be a pumpkin oil vendor at the event from the pre-show media but I wasn't ready for how good it is.  I was expecting something on the lines of Rape Seed Oil. 

We all know rape seed oil is sustainable, good for you and locally produced.  But it is pricey and it doesn't really taste as inspiring as such an expensive product should.  I was right on a few of these points.  Pumpkin oil is sustainable, although it is imported from Slovenia, so if you're on a local food diet it's not for you.  It is good for you, high in those important Omega oils that we don't eat enough of.  It is pricey.  £4.50 for 100ml is more than I would normally pay for any oil.  Yet I still bought a bottle and it was well worth the cash.

I bought a bottle due to the incredible nutty favour.  If you have ever put roasted pumpkin seeds into a salad then you will have tasted something similar, but nowhere near as intense.  It is almost like liquid toast with peanut butter.  Forget the fact that it manages to be both red and green at the same time, that's just witchcraft.

When trying a new ingredient it's often easiest to use it in something that you can cook with your eyes closed, for me that means risotto.  I tried to keep the flavour of the risotto simple. I used a light vegetable stock, an onion and half a small butternut squash so that the sweetness of the pumpkin was through the dish.  I used the oil as a dressing along with some pumpkin seeds.  I am not exaggerating when I say a little goes a long way.  The nutty flavour really shone and the risotto was the best I had cooked for a long time.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Roast Pork

SNOW DAY! Now that I've got that off my chest I can return to the important task of cooking and feeding the family.  I'll admit to being one of the few people in the country who was willing the snow to fall.  If my wishes, crossed fingers and promises to live a better life did contribute to the snow and you were somehow inconvenienced, then I am sorry. 

I'm not sorry, I lied.  I am sorry about that.  I have had such a fun day in the snow that an extra hour to your journey means nothing to me.  We have built snowmen, smashed them to the ground and started again.  I've used a sledge for the first time in years, and got "air" going over an aptly named speed bump.

Back home, in the warm, the Sunday roast is pork shoulder from Swillington Farm.  It's a bit later than anticipated but we were having so much fun outdoors it was worth the delay.  The trimmings for the meal were spring greens, boiled new potatoes and roast parsnips with dill seeds.

As we are eating early* we have also decided to have pudding.  One of our spoils from Cornucopia yesterday was a bunch of Yorkshire rhubarb.  It is in such good nick that we decided not to mess about with it.  Simply roasted in honey from Swillington and served with creme fraiche. Delicious.

*for us.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Chorizo and Bean Stew with Gurnard

I decided not to write this until events fully unfolded.  As well as being enthusiastic about food, one of my other passions in life is sport.  I'm not adicted to the extent that I subscribe to the sports channels but if it there is any sport on terrestrial channels then, the chances are, I'll be tuning in.  There are certain things that I will actively seek out. 

I'm a Leeds United Fan, so the events of the last week have left a bad taste in the mouth.  Today's victory has, in my eyes, not justified the sacking of Simon Grayson.  This was not my match of the day.  Football aside, my favourite sport is Rugby Union.  I was brought up in a house where rugby was the most important sport.  It's not club rugby that I'm interested in but International rugby and today saw the start of this season's Six Nations.

Anybody that has read more than a handful of these posts will know where my allegiances lay in today's Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and England.  For anybody that's unsure, allow me to spell it out.  I'm the product of a Scottish Father and a Welsh Mother.  The 6 Nations (5 when I was growing up) was the only sporting event that brought all of the family around the telly.  Although my loyalties were split (Mum or Dad) there was always a common enemy, England.

This year's Calcutta Cup match did not go as planned.  A series of errors by the Scotland team, that wouldn't have been welcome at school level, and a gifted England try gave England the victory.  It's fair to say that I was in a mood as foul as the forecast snow-mageddon.

Fortunately we'd had a brilliantly foodie day in the run up to the start of the match.  We'd spent the afternoon at Cornucopia, an independent food fair at Leeds Corn Exchange. We had taken the decision to seek inspiration from the event and Kirkgate market for our evening meal and we found inspiration in abundance.

The real find was pumpkin oil.  I'd never seen or tasted it before and it is incredible but it's not on the menu tonight so I'll come back to it later.  For tonight we found Yorkshire Chorizo.  There were three varieties on offer and like a child in a sweet shop I bought one of each.  With our spicy Spanish sausage bought we started to pull a meal together.  A trip to the market for the final ingredient was hardly a chore at all.

I made the stew before the match kicked off so that I wasn't distracted.  Once we were ready for it all it took was reheating with the gurnard fillets on top to steam.  This gently cooks the fish and allows the flavours to mingle.  All a stew like this needs is a good hunk of bread.  We got ours from Cornucopia too, it's great what you can find in Leeds when you're looking for inspiration.

Friday Night Take-away - Pizza

Z was late home from work tonight.  I could hardly begrudge her some post work drinkies as one of her best friends is leaving Leeds for a life down under.  I was sad not to be going along but somebody had to hold the baby.  By the time she got home from The Adelphi, R had had his supper and was ready for bed and I had made a quick tomato sauce for the base of two pizzas.

We had pimped a shop bought pizza for a quick meal last weekend and fortunately, we had some of the salami left over.  This, along with olives were the star of the first pizza.  The second one was veggie with peppers and char-grilled artichokes.  Just in case there wasn't enough bread on offer I baked off some dough-balls as pre-pizza nibbles.

Baked Rainbow Trout

I like fish.  In fact I like all of the watery edibles that I have tried so far.  There are some odd creatures in the depths of the ocean, like the sea cucumber, that even I might turn my nose up at.  But closer to home I don't think there are many creatures that I wouldn't be happy to have on my plate.

This is not true of all of my friends however.  A close friend of mine went on a fly-fishing trip, which was organised by and for a gang of lads.  Part of the day's fun was the guarantee that even if you didn't catch anything, you would come away with two lovely fresh (farmed) rainbow trout.  This sounds great to me but Pablo doesn't eat fish.  He didn't let on to his mates, or to the owner of the fish farm.  He had a good day out, caught nothing, and went home with his fishes.

This is how I have come to have a trout in the freezer.  Baking the fillets in a tin foil parcel with sliced onions, lemon and parsley is simplicity itself.  Getting the fillets off in the first place was more of a struggle.  Today's division of labour meant that Z was prepping the meal while I went on a late dash to the supermarket.  I like to think that I keep our knives reasonably sharp but clearly I need to do better.

Still, by the time I had returned the fish was filleted and pin-boned and ready for the oven.  By the time all this had taken place, it was late.  We spent the rest of the evening listening to music and compiling playlists on any number of themes, but that is a different blog altogether.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bangers and mash

Now we are in February and life has normalised itself, after Christmas and New Year, we have received a lovely delivery.  Our first meat box from Swillington Farm.  When we first ordered an organic, local, rare bread meat box from Swillingon we decided it would be a good test to see if we could go a month without buying meat.

I think it's fair to say we passed, but not with flying colours.  There was always an occasion, visitors or a desire for bacon when we had already had our months allowance.  We've loosened our strict meat embargo and now allow ourselves to buy extra without feeing guilty, but only if we fall on bargains, or really want steak.

In our experience, there are a couple of givens in the boxes.  Bacon, pork loin steaks and sausages.  The sausages, all be it ever present, have never been the same, two boxes in a row.  This month we received pure pork sausages.

Given the wonderfully seasonal weather we've been having it was no surprise that Z wanted sausages and mash.  I've not analysed why mashed potato is so comforting but I'm willing to accept that it is.