Mostly Concerning Food
This no meat diet isn’t intended to be an autumnal detox. It’s long term planning. I have every intention of continuing to reduce my overall meat intake and would be quite happy to end up a vegetarian or vegan. It is having a beneficial effect on my health (and waistline) but the real reason, that we identify certain months as meat free, is to encourage us to vary our diet, and see that it is perfectly possible to approach food from a different angle without giving up on any of the things that attract us to food in the first place.
The week starts badly. I’m a huge fan of Mary Berry’s simple recipe for Bara Brith. You soak dried fruit and brown sugar in tea overnight, add flour and an egg in the morning and pop it in the oven. I’ve made it a dozen times or more and it has never been less than wonderful. I’m slowly working my way through the booklets of recipes by Paul Hollywood that came with the weekend newspapers. He’s got a more sophisticated recipe that involves cooking apples and plums and spices. It’s essentially the same principle and I’m up early on Sunday morning to add the flour et al to the fruit that has been soaking. It is only when I’ve got everything else combined that I realise that we have no eggs. I try to get in touch with Frances to see if her chickens can help out and am prepared to make a twenty mile dash. Happily my early morning text doesn’t upset her slumber. The local Spar shop opens at 8, by which time the other ingredients have waited over two hours. It isn’t to be recommended. I pop it into the oven anyway which is where problem number two kicks in unseen. Our oven has put in a good dozen years’ service and needs a little care and maintenance every now and then. It gets a new seal in mid week but on Sunday it is cooking colder than we think. The Bara Brith eventually delivers up a clean skewer. It is cooked but… it bears a stronger resemblance to bread pudding than tea bread. I’ll have another go sometime. In the meantime…pass the custard!
The week ends with another Hollywood recipe. This time it’s Parkin and this time it’s perfect. I’m very taken with the idea of a culinary tour of Britain; either involving travelling or simply involving regional recipes. Parkin is closely associated with Yorkshire and with bonfire night. I’m not anti-Catholic enough for bonfire night but I’m very fond of all sorts of gingerbread; and Parkin is one of my favourites.
In between times there are lots of dishes that I love but which don’t seem right somehow in the summer. I can see no real reason for not having a baked potato in June but it tastes nicer with a gathering October gloom outside. The same is true of macaroni cheese and fish pie. Maybe beans on toast as well though that is such a perfect stand-by that it does useful service throughout the year.
Sultana Bran, a little semi-skimmed milk and good coffee in a favourite cup and saucer goes well with the Sunday papers.
What better way to test if the oven is working properly than by baking some potatoes? Opinions vary over such a simple meal. Some folk like to rub them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. I do this from time to time and the results are very nice. It does seem a little indulgent though and rather undermines the baked potato’s role as a low fat meal. Mind you, by the time I’ve added butter and cheese, that argument is slightly redundant.
I prick the potatoes with a fork a few times on each surface. Some people say this prevents them getting really crisp. I say it also prevents them from exploding in the oven.
These skins are crisp and delicious and the centres soft and floury. The cheese is a rather good Red Leicester from Waitrose. A reasonable amount of flavour and a blaze of colour.
The Red Leicester does excellent service for this macaroni cheese. Simply cook the macaroni and pour over a cheese sauce (made the roux sauce way with butter, plain flower and milk.) There is a good teaspoon of English mustard in there along with salt and pepper as well as the cheese. The last of the grated cheese and some grated breadcrumbs are sprinkled over the top and 15 minutes in the oven completes the dish.
Four days this week I got stuck in the office and didn’t have time to make a proper lunch. I don’t like crisps very much but they fill a gap. Something I don’t like much but which I’m strangely attracted to at certain times. It used to be cigarettes. I’m happy with the trade.
This tri-coloured pasta from Aldi is actually very good indeed. Here it is served with a simple sauce made from onions, green pepper (the last one from the garden), plenty of chestnut mushrooms and a tin of anchovies. It was a little strong (the anchovies!) until we added a spoon of Greek yoghurt. Then it was difficult to turn down a second helping. Well, I found it difficult. Impossible actually.
Bon Maman cherry compote with Greek yoghurt. I normally have shredded wheat for breakfast and an apple each time I walk the dog. This gave a different way of enjoying fruit in the morning. Really fresh and really clean flavours and textures.
The rest of the mushrooms gently cooked, first in olive oil and then with knob of butter and some finely chopped garlic added. When they were nearly done I popped the bread in the toaster and some Henderson’s Relish (like Lea and Perrins except from Sheffield and much better) and a few drops of Tabasco in with the mushrooms. Who needs bacon?
This fish pie is made with frozen fish. Cod and salmon from Aldi and a packet of king prawns. The potatoes are Desiree and the sauce is a simple roux with lots of fresh parsley added. Comfort food at its very best.
Gingerbreads are easy to make. Dry ingredients stay together, butter is melted with golden syrup and black treacle and two eggs are beaten into some milk. Then everything is beaten together and poured into a baking tin.
I cannot recommend this meal highly enough. Easy, nutritious and very very tasty. I’ve even stopped buttering the toast to make it even healthier. I recommend the book as well. Especially if you are a dog lover.
Yorkshire Parkin made to a Paul Hollywood recipe surrounded by some of the ingredients for a chutney from an 1896 recipe for which I am indebted to Mr Bruce Goodman of New Zealand who writes one of the best blogs on the internet.
The chutney gave a lovely focus to Friday evening. I used to wait for weeks, months even, before trying chutneys like this. This one comes from a 120 year old recipe. I reckon it has waited long enough and try some straight away on a cheese sandwich. It tastes delicious. The colours of autumn are now complete in both the garden and the store cupboard. Bring on the winter.