Sunday, 23 November 2014

Cheese fest

This isn't cooking per se, but I always have to look up the quantities that I once helpfully wrote down for Future Me, along with a shopping list, so I thought I'd share that, as it's coming up to party-time, and share some of my cheese lists courtesy of my Cheese Hero, plus some of his Ineffable Wisdom on the subject of cheese. Also, because I had my Birthday Cheese Fest last night (my birthday's on Monday). So when I scavenge through my recipe files for Cheese Party Quantities, I find this:

Cheese party quantities

for 10 people
150g cheese per person = 1.5 kg total
Biscuits: 5 boxes (you could do 1 packet each water biscuits, digestives, oatcakes, cream crackers, rye crackers, but now I just bite the bullet and get three kinds of Millers Damsels because they serve the cheese so much better)
Grapes: 3 punnets
1 head celery
4 apples
Chocs: 5 per person = 50 chocs
1.5 bottles port, 8 bottles wine (yeah, yeah, whatever, it's a party people)
Cheeses: Thick blue A5 notebook, Nov 2012

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Fresh, lively jalfrezi

This is the best freshest liveliest curry ever. I make large quantities (surprise!) and freeze it in 250 ml batches. That and a 300g bag of frozen prawns = perfect curry for two. For this one, you need to have already made your green masala paste as well as your balti and garam masala. These quantities make about 1.25 litres, which is enough sauce for 5 curries for 2.

Curry Cascade

Curry is its best when you have lots of different dishes - I usually try to have at least the main curry, two sides, and perfect rice:

And even better, several different curries, several different sides. BUT if you try to do all that at once, you end up with insanely complicated prep arrangements like this:

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Freezing (even without a freezer) and some food safety tips

I said that I freeze and freeze and freeze - I've worked out some useful ways to do that (and useful quantities) and learnt a lot about food hygiene from Will's restaurant experience. We now have two freezers: one is part of a fridge-freezer; the other (same size, about waist height) we got for twenty quid off The Daily Info (Oxford's lovely classifieds site) in April, when my endo was coming back and I wanted to be able to more in-advance cooking. We also spent three years living with just an icebox, though, so I'll add what I learnt from that, and also totally ice-zone-free fridge-only suggestions. Whatever you're using, though, HEALTH WARNING: FOOD SAFETY.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Random marinated olives ~ with future flavoured oil

Sometimes I do large quantities of marinated olives in big jars with much planning and special Buying Of The Olives And the Olive Oil; this evening I absentmindedly and sleepily pootled about the kitchen throwing stuff in a jar and literally throwing coriander seeds about the place, all because I'd absentmindedly and sleepily drained too many olives at lunchtime, for salad, and the remaining olives were starting to look all dry and sad in the colander in the sink. It took about ten minutes. It would've taken five, if I'd been less absentminded and sleepy, and hadn't spent quite as much time collecting coriander seeds I'd thrown around. You also end up with amazing flavoured oil.

Kedgeree bake

This assumes you've already made a lovely generous kedgeree, and have just defrosted (or pulled out the fridge) about 600ml of it. You're going to mix it up with cheese and egg, pop it in the oven to bake at 180 degrees, and serve it on baby spinach with a good dollop of yoghurt and some veg on the side. This serves between 2 and 4, depending on how hungry you are. Anything left over will reheat very nicely the next day and it's also tasty cold, so will do beautifully for lunch.

Moroccan stew *aka* Beef tagine

Rich, warming, heavy with lighter spice notes, definitely a winter dish - I discovered this recipe last winter, and over the summer dreamed of when the mists would be chill enough (and I well enough) to cook it again. It's one of those dishes that as soon as you discover it, you want to get people round and feed it to them all the time because everyone must taste this. WARNING: You need to spice-rub the meat the night before (or that morning) and it needs three hours in the oven, (after about 10-20 minutes prep time, depending how fast you chop). So if you're not at home in the afternoons, this is a weekend cook, but it makes masses (serves 8, I reckon). It's also part of the cooking-for-one week 2, so line up your 250ml tupperwares to receive! (It freezes like a dream.)

Friday, 14 November 2014

Bacon & blue cheese salad

One of my favourite lunches (and in the cooking-for-one week 2), and as always I'll make a big 'un and then it'll live happily in the fridge for a few days, sealed tight, and for a few days running I'll have fantastically yummy effort-free lunch. This version uses both red onion and spring onions - you can miss out one of them, but you need some onion factor to cut through the bacon and blue cheese.

The Patented Bacon-Pan Cleaning Marrow Method

This is brilliant. You will love me forever. And you will also never have to scrub to the point of ruination a pan in which you have had the audacity to fry bacon, apparently rending null and void all its purported non-stick properties!  Short version: scoop out the bacon and dump in some chopped marrow / courgettes, and leave it on to simmer. Pan is easy to clean PLUS you get a lovely bacony marrow/courgette side dish. WIN!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Wonderful tortilla collation

In this wonderful and magical world, which also happens to exist if you're following my cooking-for-one menu plans, you've already made a magnificent bolognese, and then converted some of that into chilli con carne, and saved a couple of tablespoons of that for tortilla. (You only need 1-2 tablespoons of it per tortilla, I know it sounds like nothing but trust me.) So this is really collation, more than cooking. The quantities here will make 2-3 tortillas. I can usually eat one or one and a half. Will usually eats two and the half I didn't eat.

Perfect Sunday roast for one

White haikus

Cream carpets, huge rooms.
I roam through sunlit stillness.
All this space, for me.


Butternut and apple soup

This is one of the cooking-for-one week-2 meals, though it feeds considerably more, depending on the size of your butternut and appetite. (This made enough for six.) I made this on Sunday evening, to eat on Monday, so it could cook while I did the roast.

When I lived in South Africa, butternuts were cheap as potatoes, if not cheaper; they've thankfully started to come down in price in the UK, so it's no longer a very expensive home taste. Many people feel the need to throw curry powder at every squash they see, which I don't like. I'm a massive curry fan, but a) there's no such thing as "curry powder" (or shouldn't be), and b) the butternut is plenty heavy enough already without being weighed down by the spice base-notes that "curry powder" tends to feature. In South Africa, I used to make butternut soup with one crisp apple (Granny Smith), the juice and zest of an orange, and milk instead of water. I discovered really, really tart cooking apples in England. Bramley apples are not tart: they're just floury. But tart apples... One morning, I bought a little bagful on the street from an elderly man , who was selling from his allotment, and walked onto teach, and tried to munch one of the apples. My mouth tried to turn inside out and all my saliva glands squirted at once. It was extraordinarily thrilling. I tried a few more mouthfuls, just to replicate the experience, but couldn't make it through the apple. When I got home, I tried making butternut soup with them, and they were the perfect clear-juice cut-through to the heaviness of the butternut. Perfect!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The generous kedgeree

I learnt to make this kedgeree from the Bhakti Yoga society at university (Hare Krishna society), who offered the magical combination of cooking lessons, a lunchtime meditation space, and free food. They also taught me the basics of cooking with spices: whole spices, then wet spices, then powdered spices. (I'm heading into story time here, so scroll down if you're just after the recipe.)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

How to roast garlic

Any time the oven's on 180 degrees anyway, and you have a head or two of garlic about the place, you can pop them in to roast. When they're done, unpeel the cloves, put them in a clean jar, and cover them with olive oil. Voila: roasted garlic whenever you need it, kept safe under the oil, plus roast-garlic-infused olive oil. (Every time you use the oil, top it up with some more.)

Menu plan ~ Cooking for one, Week 2

This menu plan assumes you've already done Week 1, so you have some of your meals cooked already. If you haven't, you probably want to start there! Also, you don't have to be cooking for one - if there are more in your household, just multiply by the relevant number. (If you're multiplying by more than 2, you'll need some pretty big pots, mind. Maybe don't make double of the kedgeree and Moroccan stew, as those make loads anyway - both serve at least 8.)

As before, the recipes are wheat-free (provided you buy corn tortilla wraps). This lot isn't veggie, though. The two new meat-based meals are roasted chicken pieces and a Moroccan stew - not sure how those would convert to veggie. If you have any ideas, let me know & I'll put up the alternatives.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cottage pie

This one's a magical collation - if you're coming from the cooking-for-one meal plan, you already have your magnificent bolognese and a handy portion of mash.

Kirsten's chickpea salad

This one came from Kirsten, in the fabulous shared house on Hythe Bridge Street - for a salad, it doesn't need a huge amount of fresh stuff in the fridge, which is very handy. Again, a pic-free post to get it up for the cooking-for-one meal plan. For now, you will have to imagine it: bright greens, whites, and blacks, with the subtle warmth of chickpeas.

Cottage soup

This is the first soup I learnt to make, when I was 18 years old and living in the nineteenth century, in a wonderful sprawling house in Cheltenham, with the sudden responsibility of running a household and caring for two women - one a temporary invalid, the other just very elderly.  I loved it. I spent almost all my time cooking, I had an apron, we had tea at precisely four o'clock every day and I'd very politely bellow "Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong?" at my elderly charge, and all the lamps in the room would be lit, like Arabian nights. The grandfather clock in the upstairs hall gonged the hours. In the afternoons, over the washing up, I sang "Don't go chasing waterfalls..." and occasionally entertained the vicar. You'll hear more about that house, and that time, but for now, the soup.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Beautiful soothing ratatouille

Another regrettably photo-free post (for now) - I'll add one with photos, but want to get it up so very dear friends following the lovingly hand-crafted cooking-for-one menu plan have the recipes! I find it hard to believe that in all the ratatouilles I've made, admired, rejoiced over, I haven't actually photographed them, but maybe that's also the space they occupy. Slow, private, healthful, retreating, high-sensitivity retreat space. From an exhaustion of high-octane over-stimulation, ladle out a bowlful of warm red-green ratatouille, all the flavours perfectly and gently combined, and soothe...

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Collating chilli con carne

This is one of the uses for the magnificent bolognese cascade and also one of the steps on the cooking-for-one meal plan. Once you've got your bolognese, the rest of it is really just heating and collating.

Perfect rice

I hated rice as a child. We had this revolting stuff in South Africa called Tastic rice (taking the fan out of fantastic - took me years to work out what they'd done there) and as far as I was concerned, it was like chewing wool.  Unless it was brown Tastic rice, which was like chewing wool with added wood shavings. I knew that in some countries people had rice as a staple food, and by God I pitied them.

Quick 'n dirty frittata

Rapid-fire summary: This is not authentic and Spanish.  It is great, and quick.  Fry onions or not, cooked potatoes if they’re around, fresh chilli or garlic if you will, any available vegetables, and pour over whisked egg.  When it’s almost cooked through, grate cheese on top and stick it under the grill to finish off.  Summer veg – peppers, courgettes, baby spinach – work beautifully.  Served on a bed of baby spinach, it’s gorgeous.  It’s also tasty cold.

How to chop a bell pepper

Maybe this is super-obvious, but I spent several years when I first learnt to cook using a lot of peppers and being baffled at how best to disassemble them. So for anyone else that's puzzled, here you go!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Sausage & mash

Another bare-bones post in great haste, to be replaced with a langourous photo-rich post when possible, for people who need the cooking for one menu plan recipes.

Total cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Feeds: 2-3, if you're 1 person you're going to freeze some of it

Big Greek Salad

This is a post in great haste, as actual Real Live People are doing the cooking-for-one menu week plan and need their recipe instructions! I'll replace it with a more photogenic post next time I make a Greek salad.

A big salad can last three days - four if you push it - if you treat it right. That's brilliant because for two or three days lunch is just whipping out Here's One I Made Earlier! This is how to treat it right:

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Menu plan ~ Cooking for one, Week 1

A week's cooking plan, with shopping list, so you eat healthy homemade food all week and only cook once a day, and have half of next week's food cooked.

Green masala paste

This is another one from The Balti Bible and is amazingly intense, fresh, & flavoursome. It's one of the key ingredients in jalfrezi; you can also stir a tablespoon or two into cooked lentils to make a dahl, add a teaspoon to any curry at the end instead of / as well as fresh coriander, mix a quarter teaspoon into 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise for egg mayonnaise... it would probably do well being stirred into cooked veg, too. A little goes a long way. If you accidentally lick the spoon (as I invariably do), your head blows off with herb intensity.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Who wants to make garam and Balti masala?

I learnt to make both these spice mixes from The Balti Bible, which my dad gave me in 1999. I'll be posting a few of the recipes, but if you like curry, and you like cooking, I seriously recommend it. Most of the main-meal recipes use both garam masala and Balti masala, and the side dishes generally get a sprinkling of garam at the end. Nothing compares to the smell (and flavour) of freshly made curry mix; the exorbitant supermarket jars fade to dust in comparison. Little jars of spice mix also make super presents. (Masala means mix.) This is project-cooking, weekend daytimes, holidays: the mix you make will last you plenty of time so you don't mind spending a sunny or rainy Saturday afternoon filling the house with spice smells.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How to make a white sauce (bechamel)

"MOMMEEEEEE! MY WHITE SAUCE IS GETTING LUMPY!" Wail of my teenagehood echoing out the kitchen into the soft air next to the gigantic hibiscus hedge (two storeys high and more, you can lie in the extra-deep bath upstairs and stare out at blooming hibiscus) and Mom runs in from the studio and commits witchcraft with extra flour and rapid stirring, and the untenable white sauce is tenable once more.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Meal cascade: a VAT of bolognese!

The idea of a meal cascade is that you cook in massive bulk (cheaper & then you don't have to cook if you don't feel like it) and you don't eat the same thing again and again for months to come. This is the magnificent bolognese's meal cascade:

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The magnificent bolognese

This is the opposite of Spontaneous Pasta, my quickety-quick don't-even-cook-the-tomato-just-warm-it ten-minute-from-start-to-finish dish. You are going to sloooooow cook this baby.
You're going to pick a day when you're home anyway and feel mellow and relaxed and quietly interested in the world. Hey, put it on at lunchtime if you fancy.

How to make a bouquet garni - Megan trick

I spent years of my life painstakingly stripping tiny thyme leaves off tiny fragile thyme stalks, flimsy wee oregano leaves off flimsy tearable oregano stalks, stripping and chopping rosemary... No. A real bouquet garni is a muslin bag in which you pop all your herbs. I believe there is a world in which people have muslin and sew little muslin bags, but I don't live in that world. I HAVE STRING!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Anyone want to make tapenade?

Last-minute decision to join the Wolvercote big lunch, nothing prepared, but tapenade is crazy-quick (especially if you don't stop to take photographs at every stage) and all I was missing was lemons, and the corner shop could stump those up, at least.

How to chop onion - chef's trick

Nothing will stop onions making you cry. That is just part of the human condition. But they can be easier to chop and not go slithering all over the place. (That said, a really sharp knife can help lessen the amount of onion spray heading for your eyes, so there is that.)

Chop the onion in half with all its skin and bits on....

How to peel garlic - chef's trick

This is actually two tricks - depending how dry your garlic's skin is: the rub-it-off technique, or the knife-side-slam. Credit for teaching me the knife-side-slam goes to my uncle & godfather.