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Mostly Concerning Food

I wrote and published last week’s food blog while the smell of rising dough filled the house. It was FA Cup final day and for the first time in twenty years I was going to watch it. And, I was going to watch it while enjoying some decent ‘watching sport’ type food. Which begs a question. What is the best food to eat while watching a match on telly? Is it the same as the best food for watching a match in the stadium?

I’ve got an unfulfilled ambition to go to a baseball game. I’m not one for lists of things I want to do before I die. Most of the things I want to do will hopefully happen before my demise so why bring buckets into it? There is something tautological about this. But a trip to the ball game remains something I would very much like to do. It’s partly the astonishing reflexes required, partly the history of the game that I have been reading about for quite some time now, partly the fabulous clothing; surely the coolest uniform in world sport, and partly the fact that it takes a decent length of time and ball parks have excellent food outlets.

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In English football grounds you can get pies that are often dry and indigestible or the sort of hot dogs and burgers that make you think of the Spanghero brothers and which give off the smell that made you stop going to fairgrounds and pleasure beaches. There are exceptions and I plan to visit these before the year runs out. In America things are a good deal better. There’s an irony in English attitudes towards American food. The food is not only a good deal better but also has the delight of reflecting the locality. In Malin Park Miami you can enjoy the fifth innings while eating a fresh ceviche of prawns, talapia with chopped onions, coriander and avocado. If you go an cheer on The Mets in New York you can get a steak sandwich that will make you forget about the possibility of your team losing. The burgers at Atlanta are prime beef, good cheese and excellent pickle all served in a bun that is worth the effort. At Baltimore you can munch on crab cakes while watching the Orioles and at Seattle the sushi is exceptional. Throw in some fish tacos at the San Diego Padres and you have a reason why going to the ballgame is still something of a family occasion

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I give Charlie the choice between burgers made with lean steak or hot dogs with premium sausages. Both are to be served in bread baked freshly that morning. He chooses the latter and this makes it easy. Five minutes to brown the snorkers before popping them into the oven for a further twenty minutes leaves them succulent and tasty. They are kept simple. A squirt of American mustard and a squirt of ketchup is all they get. The first is enjoyed as the crowd sing Abide With Me and the second allows us to miss the adverts and warblings of supposed football experts during the half time break.

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An ice cream is a pretty decent thing to enjoy with any sporting occasion. We’re enjoying an excellent spring in England. I haven’t made any ice cream for a while due to the freezer being full of stocks and stews. These are Haagen Dazs vanilla and though not as good as home made is still a safe bet for a decent shop bought product at a reasonable price.

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Saturday had had its traditional mid morning treat of a iced cream bun and a mug of Yorkshire tea in the garden. It wouldn’t feel like a proper Saturday without it.

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There are many meals eaten out of doors this week. Most breakfasts. I continue to eat a ‘dish of sensible’ every morning. The rest of my diet may not have conformed to the standard mores of high health but breakfast has always satisfied the nutritionist in me. I’ve stuck largely to a bowl of muesli (of the no added sugar variety) with fresh fruit and either tea or coffee. T has enjoyed toast with some of the range of good preserves we made over the winter.

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A little treat on Sunday. My pineapple cutter has arrived. I first used one of these some years ago but had forgotten all about its splendours until I saw one in a recent blog post. It cost less than £3 and works brilliantly.

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You simply cut down into the beheaded pineapple and turn.

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Within seconds you have perfect pineapple rings that are a superb dessert. Pineapples are ridiculously cheap but can be a little fussy to prepare. With this gizmo the preparation becomes a simple conjuring trick. It will get some use this summer.

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The undoubted highlight of the week was T’s bread and butter pudding. I don’t know if this English dish has gained a following in other countries. If it has then you will know that it is one of the real splendours of the pudding world. If it hasn’t then I will include a recipe in a later post. It’s basically bread and butter (stale bread works better than fresh bread … seriously!) sultana and/or raisins and custard which should be home made and not made from a powder. It is simplicity itself to make and even easier to eat. Without a doubt my favourite pudding. This one is actually an Osborne pudding which means that the bread had been spread with marmalade as well as butter.

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And this one was a particularly good one. Made even better with a simple (but generous) serving of double cream.

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Rhubarb continues to be plentiful. My yearning for crumble has been temporarily satisfied (it never completely goes away) so it seems time to top up the chutney shelves. 1.5 kg rhubarb chopped into inch long pieces. 2 onions diced small, 1lb white sugar, 1lb  Demerara (it’s what I had in the cupboard …there’s no perfect recipe here), the exact number of sultanas that were in the jar (about 8oz) 2 heaped teaspoons of ground ginger, 3 star anise, pepper, salt and a pint of malt vinegar.

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Into the jam pan to hubble and bubble for about 40 minutes. The house smells pungent and fresh and purged. The chutney is ready when it looks ready.

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Let it cool (not completely) and put into jars. Rhubarb breaks down very easily and leaves lovely pink strands in the final product. This is ready straight away (it does improve if you keep it but it’s already pretty good). It gets tried in cheese sandwiches straight away.

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It has a run out as a side relish to a quickly made spaghetti bolognaise. I had to do something with the ground (minced) steak I’d bought in case we’d taken the burger option. This was delicious. You cannot beat simple things done well. I bet there is a baseball ground where you can get good pasta. There certainly isn’t an English football ground which is odd considering food has improved so much in this country an that there are no end of top Italian players plying their trade over here.

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There was enough for a good ‘tuck-in’ supper and plenty left over for both me and Jolly to enjoy as a picnic the following lunch.

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I’ve had a busy week. Reading and writing projects are blossoming, I’ve made a spring offensive on the garden and got things in place to begin similar hostilities on the house. I’ve taken the new bicycle out for a couple of two hour runs. There’s not much weight on the bicycle…until I climb aboard. It’s time to increase the exercise if I’m going to trim my weight because I have no intention of cutting out any of the pleasures of good food. Even a simple plate of ham and chutney sandwiches on factory bread with some crisps. It’s been a simple week for food and a week of sport. This continues next week with the one hundredth State of Origin match. Now what will make a decent spread for an Aussie sporting occasion?