Tag Archives: dinner

To food blog?

I read Orangette’s latest post a few days ago and it got me thinking. Orangette is one of the last remaining blogs that I love to read. Like read read. I love the way Molly writes about food, but mostly I love the way Molly writes about her life. And I love how the two mesh together in various ways. I find with lots of food blogs nowadays, it is all about lifestyle, with a heavy dose of very beautiful pictures. There is less of the grittiness. Less of the real. Everything is curated. And quite frankly, it is rather exhausting. So now, rather than reading about people’s lives, I am reading their projected existences through their pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I love these food-photography-lifestyle blogs. But I miss those other blogs, the ones that were about life and writing and food. And didn’t really have fabulous pictures and often featured ordinary, slightly mucky kitchen tables. Maybe they are still out there but got lost in the ether that is the very full food blog world? (If you know of any, send them my way – Rachel Roddy’s Rachel Eats used to be one but now it’s in The Guardian instead, which is great by the way but not really the same). So Rachel and Molly are the two I read regularly. But that isn’t really enough to feed by habit.

So I have begun to wonder whether maybe, just maybe, I should write the blog I want to read instead? I used to write a little about my life but I have always been quite guarded about it. And when my PhD came to an end I moved into just curating reading lists because that was all I could manage in amongst all the other things I was doing. I’ve tried writing snippets elsewhere, starting other projects and then abandoning them because really, this is the space I like to write in. So hello *waves manically*, here I am.

I have no idea how this might work yet but I thought I would start with some info on where I’ve been the past eighteen months or so, when all there has really been here is the reading lists (and let’s be honest, there is quite a lot of me being random on those lists but not much detail). The short version is I finished a PhD, got an office job, developed a bout of anxiety and depression, busted the ligament in my knee (surgery next week), got a new job (as a researcher and it is AWESOME), signed a book contract, started to recover from anxiety and depression, started knitting and took up yoga and swimming. Of course there is a much longer and wordier version of this story but that’ll do for now.

In amongst all of that I have been baking (several birthday cakes, one wedding cake), trying not to drive A- mad with my weirdness (almost 3 years together), and I’ve bought an ice cream machine (finally!). I also recently took ownership (rental-ship?) of an allotment in Sneinton in Nottingham. My mother (and pretty much everyone else) is convinced it needs an army of gardeners and a lot of money. It’s only a half plot and is mostly covered in bindweed so I will have to make it work as I have neither an army of gardeners nor tons of extra cash. I am also about to become immobile for around 6 weeks while my knee recovers from its reconstruction. But I went to the site the week before last and the robin came over to say hi so I think I am going to like it there.

Mostly I am learning to do what I can and not stress to much about the rest. This is very difficult. A lot of what I may write about is how difficult it is to give up perfectionism for sanity. I am also busy writing a book. My kitchen table currently looks like this:

Mucky kitchen table masquerading as desk

Tonight for dinner I made what effectively turned out to be a spiced beef pizza but which was supposed to be this. Mine looked nothing like the picture but it was delicious. I also didn’t really follow the recipe, and apparently my pide folding skills need severe work but more on that some other time. I ate some of it (it feeds a small army) with tomato salad, while watching Wimbledon (Nadal v Young) in the dying light of a summer day.

More soon. x

 

The Everyday Table: Spanish pisto

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This is the dish to eat when you are mostly in need of vegetables. Although Andrés would disagree, this is like the Spanish version of ratatouille. It is simple to make: dice the vegetables you want to use into small-ish chunks, about 1.5cm. You don’t want things so small that they disappear in the sauce. We used aubergines, courgettes (zucchini), onions, carrots, tomatoes and peppers. Cook these all separately until soft and tender. Heat a carton or tin of tomatoes in a large pot. Add all the vegetables back in and bring to a simmer. Serve with a fried egg and some bread for dipping, glooping-up the sauce. Voila!

The Everyday Table: An Epic Feast

So not quite an ‘everyday’ table but one that we should endeavour to undertake now and again: feeding a crowd. As it is Friday, you can plan your weekend around a feast like this one.

There is little that gives me more pleasure than feeding others but I understand that for some, the prospect of feeding a large number of people is panic inducing. It needn’t be. The recipe for success is: 1) equally mad friends also willing to cook (or bring some part of the meal with them); 2) fantastic ingredients; 3) stuff that you have made before (key!) and 4) wine. Because if all else fails, you’ll be relaxed enough not to worry too much about it. And as Julia said, never apologise! People are always grateful that you are willing to cook for them. Even if it hasn’t turned out quite as you planned, they don’t know that!

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This Everyday Table’s meat dish was Ottolenghi’s roast pork with oranges. Our pork came from Merrivale butchery and was truly spectacular, cut and boned for us by the loveliest butcher, scored, and the perfect amount to feed our hungry friends. Whilst I am the biggest fan of Sunday roasts, the sides we made were spectacular enough to hold their own, if you didn’t want to cook any meat. For sides we made red cabbage with apples; cucumber salad with ginger; butter carrots; cauliflower two ways (from the August Taste magazine and outstandingly good); and roast potatoes (following guidance from my aunt Trudie). We bought our vegetables at Karkloof Farmer’s Market and our wine choices were from Meander Fine Wines (a truly wonderful wine shop).

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We hadn’t really planned a starter, but served slices of cold roast sirloin on a bed of rocket, with many shavings of parmesan, drizzles of balsamic glaze and olive oil.

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For dessert I made blueberry tart, from The French Kitchen: A Cookbook. It is one of my favourites, written by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. It is a wonderful wonderful book, and I packed it into my suitcase so I can cook from it more. We served the tart with a mascarpone cream.

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The meal was some effort but hugely satisfying. Lunch lasted well into the late afternoon. Afterwards there were naps and dog walking.

The Everyday Table: Rachel Roddy’s bursting tomatoes with tagliatelle

I made this on our first Saturday back, after our holiday. It is something I would normally make for dinner (being completely incapable of being functional before noon on the weekends), but Andrés was working in the evening, so I made it for our lunch (the things you do for love!) The pasta is super duper easy, and captures the sunshine bursting in the last tomatoes of the season. Rachel says you can eat it with whichever pasta you like, but we hardly ever have tagliatelle so it felt like a treat. And really now, how can anyone not be tempted by a recipe for ‘bursting tomatoes’? I am in love with the name. I served it with pork chops, salted, peppered and fried in the pan.

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Cookbook Club: Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food

This past Sunday we finally got around to hosting a new Cookbook Club evening. It was, in truth, four friends meeting for dinner but cooking from the same book – this time, Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food but it was super amounts of fun, laughter and excellent food. Everyone made two dishes, because (we thought naively), the dishes seemed small and the whole point of Cookbook Club is to get a taste of everything. (We made lunchboxes for Monday with the leftovers).

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Collectively we made: pancetta-crumbed mozzarella salad (which I used bacon for as I couldn’t find pancetta); pork ribs with honey and pomegranate molasses; tomato foccacia with ricotta; summer herb rolls; rice cakes; lentils, peas and grilled salmon; and to finish: mango and passionfruit mess. Micky proved her foccacia dough in her car, driving to her grandparents in Gloucester in the morning. And her tomatoes came from her mum’s garden! (None of the rest of us was quite that cool.) I made the meringues from scratch, as I had frozen egg whites that needed using.

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Brown Sugar Meringues

120g egg white

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

160g golden caster sugar

40g demerara sugar

40g light brown sugar

Whisk the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks. Add in the cream of tartar and whisk briefly. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time until glossy, thick and stiff.

Preheat the oven to 100C. Line a baking tray with a silpat mat or baking paper. If using baking paper, use teaspoons of the meringue to secure the corners of the parchment to the tray.

Scoop the meringue onto the tray using a dessert spoon. Bake for two hours then switch off the oven and leave overnight.

Combine with cream and fruit!

Next month we are cooking from the Hairy Biker cookbooks.

The Everyday Table: Slow-cooked Lamb

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This is slow cooking for a lazy (and cautiously autumnal) Saturday afternoon. It was inspired by Felicity Cloake’s latest ‘perfect’ article in The Guardian this week – on kleftiko lamb. I love the idea of a one-pot meal but don’t have too many in my repertoire. I marinated the shoulder of lamb (only 800g necessary for the two of us for several days) in cinnamon, oregano, juice of half a lemon and garlic, as suggested by Cloake. But I only had three hours before it needed to go into the oven. Next time I will be organised and marinate it overnight. I cooked the lamb in a crock pot on top of a bed of potatoes (cut into chunks), the ends of several peppers that were on the out in the fridge (there are always portions of peppers in my fridge. I never really believed in cultural staples until Andrés moved in and brought with him tins of tuna and peppers), a few bulbs of garlic sliced in half, half a lemon squeezed, a red onion cut into wedges, a handful of various tomatoes I had, and of course, the lamb. I baked this all (with some water, as suggested), covered at 160C for nearly four hours. Then I added in sliced carrots and peas. I followed the instructions to turn up the heat for the last fifteen or so minutes and cook without the lid on.The meat was succulent and falling off the bone. The vegetables soft and tender and amazingly fragrant. Definitely going to make this again.

 

The Everyday Table: Tomato Galette and Lentil Salad

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Wednesday evening dinner: inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s lentil salad and The Violet Bakery Cookbook’s tomato and marjoram tarts. I used the flaky pastry from Violet, which I swear is the best and easiest flaky pastry I have made in forever. I bought loads of tomatoes at the weekend and simply filled the tart with these, all sliced in half. I brushed the folded edges with egg wash and then baked it at 200C for approximately 35 minutes. It could probably have done with some more time in the oven (just to crisp it a little further) but we were hungry. (We didn’t eat until 10pm because I had a meeting at 7pm so I prepped everything before I left and came home to finish it off.) For the salad, I followed the instructions on SK – using the same amount of lentils and courgettes. I used a banana shallot and one clove of garlic. I didn’t measure the dressing ingredients, choosing to just wing it to taste. We fried cubes of halloumi instead of burrata and added in tinned red peppers that Andrés found in the cupboard, unlabeled. This is one of my favourite summer dinners. It is a little bit of work to throw together but is delicious and most of it can be made in advance.

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