Mostly Concerning Food
WARNING: May contain
“These southerners! They’ve no idea about the efficacy of food have they Carter?”
“Well. Who in their right mind would think about dishing up cold ham with hot eggs?”
(Uncle Mort’s South Country by Peter Tinniswood. BBC Radio Collection)
I always think of Uncle Mort’s appraisal of this particular combination and, like Mort, always tuck into it with gusto. It was meant to be plain poached eggs on toast; though there is nothing plain about this finest of all dishes. A slice or two of ham left over in the fridge, from when Charlie came to tea, needs using up. It may be “an affront to the north’ but it is the basis of such dishes as Eggs Benedict, and it makes for a very decent Saturday breakfast. In fact the only thing that could have made it better would be to listen to an episode of Tinniswood’s travelling pair of curmudgeons at the same time. I’ve got them on iTunes. I’ll get it sorted next time.
Sunday breakfast is even simpler. Having failed on my No Meat in May attempt (merely postponed) I’ve overdone rich food and fancy something simple and easily digestible. Baked beans on toast supplies the need. I write my diary while they heat gently and catch up with developments in the cricket as I eat. As a concession to luxury I grate a little parmesan on top. With two mugs of tea this makes for a very good breakfast indeed.
Premier Sports is available on the internet and for £9.99 a month I am able to watch every rugby league game played on the NRL (Australian top division). On three occasions I have tried to watch every match in the space of a week (you can watch them live or at any time you choose) but have never managed more than three matches in any one week. This week I manage two games. On Monday I watch the New Zealand Warriors thump the Canberra Raiders and on Wednesday I enjoy a game between Parramatta and Cronulla. If you go to a live rugby league game the catering is either independently awful or corporately awful. I just want a good hot-dog. I get two when I make them myself. A hot dog, a mug of tea and a top quality game of rugby league. I am in my element.
Sunday sees a Johnson’s jaunt to the fine city of Leeds. Ostensibly to see a play about rugby league being performed at The Queen’s Hotel. While we are there, we take advantage of a little shopping, and a buffet lunch at Red Hot. T is able to stick with her vegetarian diet and I get to enjoy seafood. The sushi is better than at Yo Sushi and is something that isn’t worth making at home (in my opinion) for one person.
I also have a masala dosa made hot and fresh for me while I wait. I’m still not quite convinced by these buffets but they provide you with a high percentage chance of getting food you won’t be disappointed with. Provided, that is, that you don’t set your sights too high.
Rhubarb continues cheap in Aldi and I take inspiration from Pat. She tells me she like crystallised ginger in her rhubarb crumbles (she also has the big advantage of being able to step out of the back door and pick as much as she likes from her wonderful garden). I like the combination of ginger and orange. Threads of zest look most attractive among the rhubarb which also gets liberally treated with the juice and plenty of Demerara sugar. The ginger (powdered … T not too keen on crystallised) goes into the crumble mix. I wouldn’t say it is better than last week’s, but, to say that it is as good is high praise indeed.
My favourite fruit with (perhaps) my two favourite kitchen gadgets. They both work incredibly well and conform to the old shipyard engineering philosophy of KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!). There are fancier zesters and juicers on the market but I haven’t found one yet that does a better job.
There is a quiet debate in Yorkshire (itself something of a contradiction in terms) about whether the pink (forced) rhubarb or the red and green garden rhubarb makes the best puddings. To me they are almost two different fruits that are both fantastic. I think I may just prefer the red and green but that is probably because that was how I first encountered it as a boy. We used to eat it raw, dipping it into a bag of sugar.
It’s the imperfections in a crumble that make it perfect.
The next debate is whether it goes best with ice cream or custard. A happy dilemma with only good outcomes.
I have a fussy dog. She’s probably the happiest dog I have ever met but she is a fussy eater. Experience tells us that she wasn’t well-fed in her first year. (She has an unfortunate history. We got her as a rescue and the more we look into her first year the more we feel sorry for her). She has been fed an awful lot of pizza and crisps. She doesn’t much care for dried dog food and she is happiest when she is able to have what we are having.
I buy liver to treat myself. Sarah (fellow blogger and more successful vegetarian) says that her father’s philosophy is that, if you are going to eat meat, then you ought to be prepared to eat the entire animal. I agree with this principle. It is the principle that has provided Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall with a decent living. There are parts I’m not keen on (brain, tripe) but I do like liver. A quick casserole is made at six in the morning with onions, carrots, celery and liver. It cooks away on the lowest heat for the rest of the morning and provides a very French type lunch for me in the garden. I’m watched throughout. Once the casserole has gone cold it makes a healthy and tasty meal for Jolly. There is no problem in getting her to eat this one.
My sister comes round on Tuesday and we spend a few hours sharing family photographs. The wonders of scanning means that we can both have copies of any picture without having to involve a chemist. (Yes younger readers, that is where we used to go to get our photographs developed. We took 12 at a time (24 if you were keen) and it took a week to get them back). We pause for lunch. The highlight are perfectly hardboiled eggs that came from a hen called Marjorie who lives in my daughter’s lovely garden with her five friends.
Home-made coleslaw, salad, my own pickled onions and a decent piece of Wensleydale cheese are off-set with French bread and butter.
Up early on Saturday morning and, after a dog walk of bull finches, chiffchaffs and willow warblers we have a simple breakfast in the garden. I’m not yet sure about Grape Nuts. They are as old as the hills but I’ve never dared try them. Our auntie Mary (actually T’s relation but I claim her) has them every day and she’s just about the nicest person we have ever met. T isn’t far behind. Maybe a breakfast of two like this can make us both even nicer people. As ever we are carefully guarded.
It’s FA Cup final day. This used to be one of the big days of the year. I haven’t watched it for at least a decade but, with Charlie coming round, I’m really looking forward to it. Cannot decide whether it’s going to be hot dogs or burgers. Whichever it is it will end up in some home made bread. I normally cheer on the underdogs but as they are Hull City I will make an exception. There is a very good reason why God put Hull forty miles away from everywhere else.
I haven’t included a recipe for quite a long time. This one is for MR and I hope it works out well.
I follow simple recipes for bread. Mostly one I learned back in the seventies from a book I have since lost but it’s a recipe that is replicated many other places.
1.5 kg strong white bread flour
2 sachets of instant yeast (I have another recipe using fresh yeast which is nicer but not so much nicer as to not make it this way when you haven’t got fresh)
about half a tsp of salt
a pint and a half of water (pint cold half pint boiling gives the right temperature)
a generous drizzle (guzzle) of any suitable oil you have handy. Olive is probably best but sunflower works perfectly well
Put all dry ingredients in a big bowl and mix loosely. Add the oil to the tepid water and add this to the bowl. Mix briskly with a round bladed knife until it all starts to come together. Transfer onto a table or board and start to work it and then to knead it. I always reckon that music should be playing loud for bread making. For white bread you need three good songs. Country songs are best and it is very important to sing along. After ten minutes the dough should be smooth and lovely.
Place it back in the bowl and cover (either a damp tea towel of greased polythene) and left to rise until it leaves you impressed. Return it to the floury board. The removal from the bowl is one of my favourite parts. The smell is heavenly and the strands are rather lovely to look at.
Work briefly to remove the air and shape into rolls, finger rolls, cottage rolls…whatever you fancy, or divide it into loaf tins. Books tend to say it will double in size but this is a conservative estimate.
Pre heat oven to 160c and pop the bread in. 15-20 minutes will do for rolls. 30-40 for loaves. Some say to start the oven hot for 5 mins to stop the yeast. I sometimes put the heat up for the last 5 to brown the crust.
The most important thing is to eat as much of it as you can on day one. It remains good but never as good after 24 hours.
Every stage of bread making by hand is enjoyable. I’ve had very good bread that was made in a bread maker but the end product is only part of the pleasure.