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Mostly Concerning Food

I’ve been very lax over the last couple of months. We’ve eaten really well over that time but I’ve rarely reached for the camera. At first this was deliberate. It was nice to settle down to a meal without having to photograph it first. Then it became laziness. I was going to clear all my food and travel posts off the blog. It seemed like a good idea at the time. (I can’t remember why.) Over Christmas I spent an afternoon looking at them and it suddenly seemed that I had a first class food diary. Like most diaries the fun is in putting it together. No-one expects them to be read. It would be a pity to destroy them after two years. Equally it would be a pity not to keep them going.

I’m busier now than I was two years ago. And two years ago I had a full-time teaching job. The blog was a daily thing then. Now it’s growing into an occasional thing. Things get published as and when they feel ready. These are photographs from a selection of meals from the end of November to this afternoon. I’m not altogether certain I can remember each one so its a good thing I don’t often bother with recipes. Hope you enjoy them.

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Here we have two slices of granary toast (bought bread rather than home made from what I can see). On top is a sauce I made to serve with pasta. It comprises onions, peppers, celery, mushrooms, chillies and creme fraiche. Over the top is a generous serving of char-grilled asparagus. It’s coming back to me. It was a first class breakfast. 100% vegetarian and very, very tasty.

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Poached eggs on toast are my idea of heaven. This is a real indulgence with crispy bacon and a bunch of boiled asparagus. I can remember when asparagus and smoked salmon were by-words for the food of the very rich. They don’t cost a lot these days, are invariably good quality. I feel very rich indeed every time I eat them.

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I have a new favourite supermarket. Tesco is still another word for “couldn’t care about the customer” and they wonder why they’ve lost so much good will. I haven’t been into Asda or Sainsbury’s in the last year. Not a boycott. They just haven’t tempted me. I go to Waitrose each time we fancy a Saturday morning in Sheffield and find it a perfectly good supermarket. (Though the one in Sheffield is full of Northern aesthetes, all extra keen to let anybody and everybody know that they know their valençay from their fougasse. Nothing wrong with that but they do rather stand in the way.) Aldi remains my corner shop of convenience but its German cousin “Lidl” has become the place to get an unexpected treat. Their Mediterranean platters (olives, hams, salamis, sun-dried tomatoes, Feta cheese) are almost perfect for watching a movie. The lobsters and crabs  are as good as you’ll get without going to a proper fishmonger and this little box of fun  (macarons) was about a third of the price you’d pay elsewhere. I used to love going to supermarkets in France and Spain. This is the nearest you can get to the continental experience in the East Midlands of England.

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A spread for my birthday. I spent a lot of time baking cakes and a couple of onion quiches but the latter seem to have missed out on the photograph. The food on the table is partly supermarket with some quickly knocked up salads. With the exception of the plate of sliced ham, it’s mostly vegetarian.
DSC_0009Note the mugs of tea. The only way to toast a birthday!

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A close-up on hard boiled eggs, a decent potato salad, a crunchy home-made coleslaw (coleslaw is like sponge cake: you’ve got a choice of making it yourself or doing without), the rice dish is a pillau with peppers and duck breast. That was seriously tasty.

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I didn’t have time to ice it properly so I just poured the still-slightly warm dark chocolate ganache over the top and smoothed it as best I could. This is effectively a battenberg cake but it is a rather splendid battenberg. I cannot remember which book the recipe came out of. Unusually for me, I actually followed it closely. It’s a good cake. Think it was called a checkerboard cake.

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A lemon drizzle cake that I was going to ice with fondant icing in acknowledgement of Nadiya’s winning entry in the Great British Bake Off. In the end a combination of running out of time and remembering the golden rule of not messing with something good. Lemon drizzle cake isn’t broke…doesn’t need fixing! (I wasn’t going to watch it this year but got drawn in).

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Why it is called a checkerboard cake. There is a thin layer of white chocolate ganache between the layers of cake. The layers are piped alternative vanilla and chocolate sponge. A lot easier than you’d imagine if you’ve never done it before.

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It was my birthday. I had two slices of each cake. I believe this guarantees good luck for the coming year. At least the good luck of starting the year with a lot of very good cake.

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At the cinema you get a choice of food: popcorn (which I have never liked), the worst sort of hotdogs (mechanically recovered meat) or the sort of nachos that look like someone has been ill on a small tray. (In support of Cineworld cinemas, the Baskin Robbins ice cream is rather good). At home the food is much, much better. Here is a typical plate. I enjoyed this watching the movie Shane. Melba toasts coated with cream cheese (Lidl sell some cream cheese that tastes like it used to do in the 60s) topped with some pickled peppers and lumpfish caviar. And it works out a good deal cheaper than anything you can buy at the cinema.

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Something similar for a ‘nibbles’ course at the start of Christmas dinner. This year we went vegetarian for the entire feast and had the best Christmas food I can ever remember. Of course I forgot to photograph any of it. Well. It was Christmas. I had other things on my mind. These are similar to my movie snacks but this time using oat biscuits and leaning towards vegetables for those who won’t eat fish. For those who do eat fish, more lumpfish caviar and some very good smoked salmon from a local smoke house.

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Here’s something I was brought up with. Each generation finds at least one food, that their parents eat, disgusting. My children won’t eat offal. Actually Frances won’t eat meat at all. I love liver. Here is a Friday  teatime plate of liver casserole with spinach and new potatoes. Worth waiting for Friday for.

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Cocoa coated chocolate almonds.

DSC_0031The only slice of Christmas cake I got this year. I didn’t bother making one. This is shop bought and tasted like it. Still it was Christmas cake.

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Simple breakfast of courgette (zucchini) pancakes. Delicious with either brown sauce or ketchup.

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Smoked duck breast from the local smokehouse and some chorizo.

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Very nice with a spinach and watercress salad.

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And a Christmas pudding to finish. Happy New Year and here’s wishing you a fabulous year of food. Simon