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Mostly Concerning Food.

 

Another week of Lent and another without eating meat.  I’ve  had vague feelings of missing it. Thoughts of shepherd’s pie and ham sandwiches fluttered through my mind and fluttered out again and off into the distance. I’m not a vegetarian and won’t become one for a little while. But the day is getting closer. I always knew that I’d stop smoking one day and I’ve long been of the feeling that I’ll end up a non-meat-eater: just not yet. It’s with a sense of drawing a little closer rather than with simple good intentions that I come towards the end of the six week Easter fast. It’s supposed to be forty days and forty nights but there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year) and Holy Saturday (April 19th). As part of the Catholic liturgical calendar, Lent actually finishes before the mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday. I keep Lent in the same way as I keep Christmas; broadly in line with the church but with a little room for manoeuvre.

I’ve been good with the Christian fasting season for a number of years now. At first I gave up things I could quite easily manage without such as coffee or chocolate. Until packing in smoking I was never very fond of chocolate so it was only a step or two up from giving up watching Norwich City play football. For the last few years I’ve given up meat. It’s a challenge and, somewhat in keeping with the spirit of Lent, a preparation.

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I saw an old friend the other day; one I hadn’t seen for quite a few years. He was fulsome in his praise for how well I was looking. “You don’t look a day older.” he repeated several times. I’m not sure how I compare. I’m pleased with how I feel and (if you take a creaking back out of the equation) actually feel younger, healthier and more athletic than I did in my forties. Giving up smoking is huge (you could tell I was a smoker from my skin alone), not drinking alcohol has saved me more than a pocket full of cash, and a decent varied diet has served its purpose.

I don’t think I could ever give up meat and fish though. There wasn’t much fish in these sushi from Marks and Spencer; a little tinned tuna in the California roll. The rest were all vegetable. T went to Meadowhall on Sunday and came back with a basketful of teatime after finding that the person in charge of the discount labeller had discounted just about everything. These sushi were really very nice. I’m the only one who eats it so it simply isn’t worth making my own. The M & S stuff is every bit as good (actually a good deal better) than the stuff you get from Yo Sushi. And a a lot  cheaper.

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Also in the M & S hamper was a rather good muesli. I’m getting very fond of muesli and have rapidly moved in a health food direction. Not out of diligence to well-being. Simply because it is more enjoyable. I don’t want to be chewing on raw grains of wheat and barley but I do like a cereal where you can actually taste the ingredients and savour the texture. The more commercially successful mueslis are over sweetened and over processed. This one is a little more like listening to Merle Haggard than Miley Cyrus. A little rougher and not quite so instantly appealing but a thousand times superior.

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One salmon sandwich and one falafel in a flat bread feels like a perfect combination for Sunday teatime. The chick pea is one of natures big hitters. There isn’t much made with chick peas that fails to score the maximum points. We don’t often think of them as high health food but they make up a tasty one of your seven a day. (Used to be five a day but our government have just upped the advice).

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The simplest meals still make the most enjoyable. Monday tea was a cheese sandwich on brown bread with tomato and rocket. Eating well might not be rocket science but it may well be rocket salad.

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I love kedgeree and marvel at the mind that decided one day to mix rice, boiled egg and smoked fish. There are a huge number of variations of recipes. They all date back to the days of the Raj. (Britain’s imperial control of India). Many are creamy or even wet dishes and most are spiced. I like all of them but have a preference for the way my mother used to make it. The three main ingredients are spiced only with black pepper and a great big handful of chopped parsley.

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I normally cook rice perfectly but this time I use the method of boiling the (Basmati) rice in a large volume of water with the intention of draining it as soon as the first grains are ready. This time I leave it while I check emails and somehow 10 minutes disappear. There was plenty of water so no danger of it burning dry. It was rather overcooked but no less delicious. It isn’t a matter of getting it wrong. It simply has a different texture. Having said that, I have no plans of cooking the rice that way again.

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Tagliatelle with peppers and mushrooms in a crème fraîche sauce. I like to have a simple pasta dish at least once a week. It takes so little doing and tastes wonderful. Surely this is a contender for the least expenditure (in time and money) for the maximum eating pleasure.

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Even better when piled high with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese. I keep thinking I’ve cooked too much (I still make the same amount as when the children were at home) but we never have any left beyond the following day.

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The two fillets of smoked haddock that didn’t go into the kedgeree make a real feast for me on Thursday (On Wednesday I went to Ashby de la Zouch and am preparing a separate post on that). New potatoes and leeks form the base of this dish. Fish is the star of the show and the poached egg is the cherry on the cake. It’s not quite as greedy a portion as it looks. The plate is medium sized and the potatoes are cut quite small.

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My favourite tea is what we refer to as a cold collation. Here two variations of green salad go alongside a simple potato salad and they accompany a range of cheeses, bought as a selection for only £4, and that emblem of a summer dish; the hard boiled egg.

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All the dish requires is a good dressing and here a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar, lemon juice and olive oil provides a sparkle to the eye as well as the tastebud. Without a doubt the best meal of the week. As I’ve asked a time or two over the Lenten period; who needs meat?

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This is a shop bought cherry pie with some home made vanilla ice cream. The pie comes from The Co-op. The poor old Cooperative movement is going through a hard time at the moment having handed over the reins to a bunch of incompetents. Most banks have suffered through greed and over weening ambition. The Coop bank has risked 150 years of ethical service in an unethical world by appointing men who couldn’t oversee heavy drinking on a brewery trip. They hold the Johnson pennies so hope they come through. We buy a pie to help profits. Two days later they declare a £1.3 billion loss but the pie went very well with the ice cream.

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So good that I photographed it twice.