Mostly Concerning Food
An Entirely Meat Free Week
When I was at infant school we all had to bring something in for the school harvest festival. Some sheafs of wheat were purloined by Miss Ullack along with some cooking apples and in between, this traditional display of the bounty of the summer, were the lost products from the back of every mother’s (it was in the sixties…dad’s only entered the kitchen to wash paint brushes and fix bicycle punctures) food cupboard. The bounty was later distributed among the elderly of the town and how they must have rejoiced at the arrival of 23 assorted tins of PEK ham and marrowfat peas. I’m certain that the same tins came round year after year.
We had our own harvest festival this week as I stripped the last tomatoes from the six plants that have produced their weight in fine fruit. The peppers have done well too and the chillies have been as much of a delight to watch grow as they have been to pick and cook with.
We’re well stocked for chutney. In addition to our own we’ve got some really delicious green tomato chutney from both Steven and from Pat. I’ve never made ketchup though and that gets my best attention. There are as many recipes as there are recipe books. They mostly follow the three part process of cooking up and reducing vegetables, blitzing and sieving and then adding sugar and vinegar and reducing to the desired thickness. I follow this using the ingredients that I have; 900g of red tomatoes, a large green pepper, two red onions, 3 yellow chillies, 1 celery heart, 3 cloves of garlic, chef’s measures of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, ground coriander, allspice, salt and 300 ml water. This was brought to a gentle simmer and then reduced by a third (about 35 mins). The sauce was then blitzed with hand blender and passed through a sieve. What didn’t go through was added to a simple tomato and onion sauce and served with spaghetti for tea.
The strained sauce (twice though the sieve if you want a more refined ketchup …the word comes from Malay) has just short of half a pint of vinegar and just over 200g of soft brown sugar added (which, coincidentally was exactly what I had in the cupboard) and brought back to the boil. Once it had reached a nice thickness I switched off the heat, let it cool a bit and put it into jars. Because of the green pepper it is browner than shop varieties. It is also spicier and tastier. (And I speak as a huge fan of Heinz Ketchup.)
On Wednesday the family arrive to watch the final of Great British Bake Off. Easy and tasty are the watchwords. Meat-free is the rule. Pizza is the answer. As an experiment I try the ketchup as the tomato base for the pizza. It is an experiment I repeat the following day and intend to go on repeating as long as we have any left. The pizzas are topped with variations of anchovy, grilled peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes together with both Wensleydale and Mozzarella cheeses. Jolly let her love of pizza be known to all but I’m afraid that, though she ate well this week, it wasn’t on leftover pizza.
For pudding we had Hollywoods. These are based on descriptions in a Michael Rosen poem of the same name and were the hit of the summer when David and Melissa were with us in 2013. Unfortunately they were both down in Devon on Wednesday night. We varied from the recipe slightly in missing out the jelly and using whipped cream rather than squirty cream from a pressurised can; we also made our own chocolate sauce. To compliment these Frances had made some really delicious brandy snap baskets which were filled with whipped cream. The snap and crunch of the biscuits, the knickerbocker glory of ice-cream, fruit, custard, cream and chocolate sauce. I’ll leave the sentence hanging. For sheer good-humoured eating pleasure they were hard to beat. The chocolate sauce was my favourite part (though all of it was nice).
One large bar of Bournville chocolate is opened and each person in the kitchen steals a couple of chunks. What survives (most of it) is melted in a bain Marie. Once melted a tbsp of golden syrup, half a teaspoon of vanilla paste and enough milk to allow it to flow (just). Simple but well worth it.
Saturday morning in Sheffield. You only get plates like that in places that have either given up or which have quite an opinion of themselves. The eggs Florentine were nice. The finely chopped chives and paprika based seasoning on top were better from a visual than an eating perspective but the Hollandaise was good and the eggs only slightly over-cooked. A good effort but if you’re charging £7.50 in a northern city then you need to be getting it spot on. The coffee was superb but I’d have preferred it if they’d not been quite so keen to impart their own musical tastes on customers who might wish to read a newspaper or book. I can only take so much of Coldplay and Fleet Foxes.
Monday was a simple Aldi lunch. Two tuna steaks slowly griddled and a bag of salad (rocket and watercress). All I added was salt, pepper, lemon juice and some olive oil.
Savoury and sour chick peas. This is a wonderful dish and, if you are using canned chick peas, very quick and easy. Onions, peppers, chillies, fresh tomatoes are cooked down in vegetable oil (the onions for about ten minutes on a low heat before anything else is added…slow cooked onions equals extra sweetness in the dish) before adding cumin seeds, ground coriander, fenugreek, fennel seeds and turmeric. Once these have worked in add two tins of drained chick peas and enough water to make the sauce you want. Before doing any of that reserve some finely chopped onion (about half) chilli, salt and the juice of 2 lemons in a mug. Add this along with a good teaspoon of garam masala a minute before serving. Serve with flat bread of choice.
I’ll never get bored of poached eggs on toast. I actually preferred these to the eggs Florentine higher up the page. The difference is in how well you cook the eggs. We cook them nicely in this house.
I had just enough dough left over after cooking a small loaf to make myself a pizza for Thursday lunch. I rolled the dough slightly thicker and cooked it at the highest temperature the oven goes to. Very much enjoyed.
Friday tea. Aubergine Roussillon. Aubergines in a home-grown tomato sauce topped with crumbled Wensleydale. Aubergines have never been my favourite vegetable but with dishes like this one I am starting to change my mind.
The photo doesn’t do this justice. It’s a bowl of vegan curry that was being handed out free to the good people of Nottingham last Saturday. There were plenty of takers and everybody was enjoying it. I certainly did.
“We’ve got to speed things up in this hotel. Chef, if a guest orders a three-minute egg, give it to him in two minutes. If he orders a two-minute egg, give it to him in one minute. If he orders a one-minute egg, give him a chicken and let him work it out for himself.” Groucho Marx as written by SJ Perelman
The ketchup and Roussillon took up the last of the red tomatoes. This old fashioned green tomato relish comes out of The 1950s Good Housekeeping book. It recommends that you keep it for four months before using. I made the sandwich below before the relish had cooled. It was wonderful. If there is any left in four months (which I very much doubt) I’m sure it will taste even nicer.
My three course meal from my piece on Ashby de la Zouch. Whitebait that I rather fancy went from freezer compartment straight into the fryer. Quite tasty though tasted more like chip shop scampi than whitebait.
Seafood pizza. There may have been seafood on there but the taste of the tinned tuna over-powered everything else on the plate. I never have been keen on tinned tuna.
And a sticky toffee pudding that came via the micro-wave route. To be fair, it tasted much better than it looks.
And a photograph of Loch Erne. I took the photo. Google developed it. My target is to develop my developing skills over the next fortnight. And to continue meat free until December.
Have a good week
*Title stolen from Andrew Marvell “To His Coy Mistress”