Thursday, June 23, 2011


Thank goodness I finally have a laptop to work on in my kitchen. Not only does hamper procrastinating about beginning writing but my usual computer station is filled with the odour of rehydrating dried mushrooms. My Mother in law always cooks on a Thursday and this Thursday she is cooking pork with mushrooms. I can only describe the reaction to the odour of the re-hydrated fungi by most Whiteys as similar to being faced with an open jar of roadkill cured in swamp gas. Every fibre of my Northern European sensory system is repelled. It is simply Not Right. I can only imagine the same effect would be induced on my Mother In Law if I piped Stilton and Cauliflower gratin fumes in to her chambers. Which of course I would never do. The aforementioned mushrooms also have the texture of ear cartilige, thinly sliced. Mother in Law is cooking the dish for the rest of the family for its cleansing properties and as a strengthening agent against the winter weather. Similar to offering lemsip only more pungent. Bless her.

Ahhh..... a trip to the supermarket in the mall, what joy. If I hadn't been accompanied, aurally, by James Dean Bradfield and Josh Homme there could have been an incident. I dislike supermarket shopping, hell, I even think I grew jaded with Waitrose when I lived in England. I did pop in to a very large Asda last year but it proved overwhelming. Now I get the reusable bags sent to me by a nice lady in Harrogate. I do envy those of you with access to Lidl and Aldi. Sean Lock says it's like going on holiday.

Another sunbeam brightening my day is having remembered I shall be seeing The Hives here in Perth and, if they have time, here in my kitchen in July.
Reader, I cannot wait.
Beautifully designed site, don't you think?

However the upshot of the supermarket visit was to buy cheaply.

There are no new soups. Soup making was nailed back in the last century. So what I present is a version of Scotch Broth, the way I made it and with some colourful photographs. I have nothing new to say on the subject, and if I had I am at something of a loss to put any value on it.

Dry Soup mix containing peas, barley and lentils
Sliced carrots and celery
Beef stock from the freezer
and these lamb forequarter chops.

The bones in these chops will do wonders for the texture of the soup. I make a very good curry with them because of the quality of the bone, recipe next time I do it. I also add a good dash of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce because the tamarind and the anchovy contained therein are very good at cutting through the richness of the lamb.

Will you look at that; pan of boiled peas barley and lentils fits in snuggly to the brim. I am very good at estimating volumes, and parallel parking even if I do say so myself.

A tablespoon of cornflour cooked on the stove top in the liquor and it's done, and some sliced chard from the garden. This is a dish for the next day as it benefits from having the lamb fat skimmed off after a restful night in the fridge.

Bulk Roasting.
I am tired of chopping onions, one of the many reasons I quite professional catering plus I couldn't do it properly. Today I am going to shove on the roasting rack a raft of whole ones, in their skins, seasoned with sea salt and - no, I cannot use the term drizzled, I lived through the 90s and never said it then - moistened with some olive oil.
Far better to coax them from their crispy skins all at once without the release of lachrymatory-factor synthase. I hope one day to be able to draw it. Once coaxed, they need to be pureed and then can keep covered in the fridge for two weeks. I added a spoonful to the scotch broth to a pan of sausages baked in the oven and mixed in the juices and some dijon mustard. No pictures, no time, eaten too quickly.

Also going in are slices of Italian bread with olive oil which will become diced vacuum pack to serve as croutons for all the soup yielded from carrots and pumpkin, roast with thyme and cardomon. The carrots took an age so I added water and sealed the pan and roasted for another hour and then pureed. Again, a spoon of the onion puree and a cup of yogurt mixed through. Gorgeous colours, don't you think. Katie Price take note -Orange is for FOOD, not skin.

Joining the others in the oven is an crumble made with tinned apples, yes I said it; tinned apples. I made the pastry but I refuse to peel and pulp when the season's apples here are on their last legs and woolly and dented. And one cannot get Bramley's. God, my life is Hard. To conclude, although the ingredient cost was minimal, especially all the protein and carbohydrate yielded by the dry peas et al, the fuel costs were high. It may be less vain and wiser to let Campbells and Heinz take the hit for fuel bills in bulk, afterall they can write it off against corporate expenses.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Winter, Paying attention to Food Prices and a new 3 litre slow cooker: this one is already writing itself

My first semester at Curtin University has ended. Now there is time to cook and write and take stock (geddit?) of what kind of writing about food is useful. Any-old-person can take a picture of a restaurant plate of food and funnel their "oohs" and "aaahs"through the keyboard and onto the screen but to what end? Great if it works for you, however it's not floating my boat of self-actualisation and feeling of worthiness right now. Plus many people do it far, far better than I can.

I blame Bob, of course, for two things: It was July 1985, my friend Rebecca Nelson and I had boarded the Excelsior Coach to Londondinium, sold some trinkets and emptied our piggy banks for two scalped tickets to Live Aid. If I recall correctly we also had on t-shirts we printed ourselves with day-glo dye and crimped hair. Take a look at your own self 26 years ago and then judge. I blame (Sir) Bob for my addiction to rock concerts (what a one to kick off with) and what I now admit is an indelible connection between what I buy to eat and what that says about Me. Am I a grateful, conscientious Have or a blase, ignorant Have? (I did resist buying 2 litres of supermarket brand milk for one dollar ninety nine because I know what that is doing to the dairy industry and I really should use up all the tins in my pantry before I replenish so maybe I 'm a small part of the way there). Chances are high I am never going to be a Have Not of any description.

I have also been reading the postings of the World Food Programme and while it is too late for me to skip off to Niger* and do Good Things it is not too late for me to Take A Serious Interest in the way Food Resources are managed in the world.
*Plus, I don't fancy hookworm or being taken hostage by a militia.

I shall not be preaching nor pontificating nor eating any of my own proteins but I shall be considering how Food is Managed as a Resource and how the Everyday consumer can create a discourse with those managers. And I shall be tightening my family's food budget* belt in an attempt to show some empathy with families who have to make hard choices about what they can buy to feed themselves. Also I am thinking ahead slightly: what if it does all go tits up and there is no longer any pata negra to be had on the high street and what if dairy farmers should get paid the real cost of milk production? One should just have to cope and those Ones with the knowledge and skills shall prevail.
*plus I 'm saving up for two weeks in Tuscany next year where I shall have my nose firmly in the trough of conspicuos, nay frivolous and fancy free, consumption.

Which brings me to two of my mother's bequests:* The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes, Penguin 1971 and Crockpot Cooking by Mary Norwak, Futura 1977.
* or do I mean gifts? Can one bequest an item when one is still living? Mother this is a stylistic and rhetorical device, I am not asking for a grammar lesson.

watch this space