One of THOSE weekends

There’s a very good reason – well two actually – why I haven’t been posting on the blog for a good while. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to find my very elderly parents a new home down here in East Sussex so that they can be nearer for us to look after them. At ages 87 (Mum) and 93 (Dad) this move will be daunting for both of them not only due to their age but also the fact that since arriving in this country in the late 1950’s they’ve always lived in and around London. (I’ve actually just looked back to see the date of my last blog post and it was March 30th, that’s disgraceful!).  So in addition to looking at property after property and dealing with solicitors and the dark arts of estate agents I’ve also been working on some new designs for the Brighton Open House weekends (more in a post later this week) and of course dealing with the renovations to the kitchen from hell in our own house. The builders have been  here for around a month so far and things are going pretty well but of course they haven’t knocked any walls down yet, it’s all been structural work on the outside of the house. The May Bank Holiday weekend was a great opportunity to escape the escalating chaos of the building works and you may notice that our antics had a bit of a gastronomic theme.

First there was afternoon tea at The Brighton Hotel with our friend Clare (thanks Bonnie and Seb it was a really thoughtful gift, sorry we couldn’t share it with you) followed pretty swiftly later that evening by a meal at Moonstone a Sri Lankan restaurant on New Church Road, Hove. Yes, there was room left in my stomach for a curry (though I did skip the starter) and the Kingfish curry with rotis was delicious – rich and spicy with a bit of heat, which I’ll ask them to ramp up  bit next time.

On Saturday we took ourselves off to the Brighton Foodies Festival which was held   on Hove Lawns  from Saturday to Monday.  I was lucky enough to win tickets over on Instagram after answering the question ‘if you could eat anything, what would it be and who would you eat it with?’ (I chose shawarmas – if you’ve never had one look them up, done well they’re fantastic). Now before I go any further I do get a little niggled at companies charging for an event that’s held on land like The Lawns where we can normally walk for free but that’s by the by. It was a great excuse to get away from our increasingly dusty house and fill my greedy face with lots of local and not so local produce and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

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This lovely man from The Garlic Farm came all the way from the Isle of Wight to cook up a storm with a something called a ‘Vampyre Slayer Burger’ that was actually more like a sandwich but honestly that really didn’t matter. The meat was soooo tender and after being cooked in an indescribably smoky, garlicky sauce it was served up in a wonderfully fresh ciabatta roll with garlic mayo, cheese, rocket and caramelised onions. This thing was so damn good I ate it on Saturday and then again on Monday, by far the best food there.

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The picture below shows what was apparently turnip coloured with beetroot juice and of course I was drawn to it because of the colour. Disturbingly though the taste  was so sharp it made my eyes water so I passed on whatever else she had on offer. Talking of foods that are disturbing and pink one of the stalls selling BBQ fell foul of Mr Sloan when he tried to explain that finding blush-pink flesh when you bite into a chicken wing is NOT a good thing. ‘They’re meant to look like that’ said the two very young blonde grill girls, not they’re bloody not … unless you want to lose weight very VERY fast. Pink beef? Okay. Pink lamb? Yes please. But as a middle aged woman  of Bajan heritage let me tell you girlie, pink chicken is NOT ‘a thing’.

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This guy was selling truffle products, the cheese and black truffle oil was particularly good.

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Rose Cottage Liquers make the most delicious gin based drinks. Thick, sweet and strong the label suggests that you may want to put a little into the bottom of a glass of bubbly but we drank it in small measures served over a couple of blocks of ice. My favourite flavour by far was the Rhubarb and Haw, and as I normally hate the taste of rhubarb you can imagine how good it must have been. I say ‘must’ have been because the bottle we bought on Saturday afternoon didn’t see the light of day come Sunday morning. Well! It was only a wee one and we took it round to a friend’s house. They (Rose Cottage not my friend) have a website here and so you can order online, if you love gin please try it.

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random shot of hot sauces – and there were a LOT of sauces.

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And lastly here’s a sot of my VIP goody bag. Yes that IS a peanut butter flavoured hot drink you see at the centre. The first thing I did when I saw it was check how many calories in a 100g serving……463! I’ll let you know when I’ve tasted it.

 

J x

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Back at the hob

It’s been incredibly windy here this morning as the UK is being hit by storm Doris, really who comes up wth these names? I love being able to hear the roar of the sea as I lie in bed and when I went downstairs to make breakfast I found that the cool box we’re currently using as our temporary fridge had been blown up the drive at the side of the house.  Luckily the meat, cheese, salad and goose fat leftover from Christmas were all still safely intact inside.

After cooking all day Tuesday I managed to actually do some knitting yesterday but alas we’ve run out of batch cooked meals so I’ll be back at the hob later today. I managed to cook my way through a whole cauliflower which became a pretty bland, pale coloured slop which did surprise me as I used this James Martin soup recipe . (More likely to be my fault than his to be honest). Luckily Sam stepped in and pimped it up with some red lentils, curry powder and his favourite ingredient celery. Although it’s not the most appealing colour it’s now delicious – how annoying – and I’ll be having the last of it for lunch today.

The pork loin and king prawns became a divine tasting Thai herby salad with the meat and fish flavoured with a Korean marinade. If you’re thinking that the portions look a little on the large size you’re right. They were HUGE! We did try inviting a couple of friends round  to share the load but none could make it (well no meat eating friends anyway) so we were forced to indulge.

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On a lighter, less gut busting note the butternut squash and feta became a rather lovely quiche which we had for lunch yesterday and actually was much less pasty looking than it looks below.

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And finally last night we had nachos using up the beef chilli I made. Yummy and rich I can’t imagine how I ever made good chilli  in my student days without a good whack of cumin and a few squares of dark chocolate.

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Well I’m pleased to say there’s no more meat left in the freezer (my gut is screaming and I’m beginning to feel bloated) …oh hold on… I’ve just remembered there’s a small M&S beef roasting joint to deal with. That’s what happens when your shopping impulses are based on the lure of a yellow reduced price sticker. Thankfully  though there’s also a pack of Quorn mince too so it looks like veggie bolognese tonight and fish pie tomorrow before we’re back on the meat wagon again.

Can’t wait for my new kitchen

J x

The fridge made me do it

When we moved into this house last July we knew that the there were elements of our new home, inherited from the previous owners, that we hated but would be fixed in time. The kitchen is primary area of concern – no scrub that- less concern more outright hatred. It’s small, dark, pokey and badly laid out with two and a half sinks and no draining board. Who needs two and a half sinks but nowhere to drain dishes?! Being more used to gas the halogen hob meant nearly every meal I cooked in the first few weeks was blacker than my hair used to be and the main oven which we were told ‘is a bit temperamental’ doesn’t work at all. That’s why we had to barbecue our 12 lb turkey at Christmas.

But hold on, I’m more zen-like and calm these days so I can put up with all this. After all the builders are due to start work at the end of this month and they’ll be ripping out the old cursed, kitchen and creating a modern, airy open plan dining, living & kitchen space of my dreams. So why the rant I hear you ask? Well with what can only be described as a bloody annoying ‘white goods’ extra sensory perception the hideous inherited fridge-freezer seems to have got wind of the fact that it’s soon to be dumped and has decided to stop working…. Yesterday. And of course the freezer is full of food. So today I’m having to cook, cook COOK rather than knit.

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Pack of tiger prawns – thawed
Beef mince – thawed
Fillet of pork – thawed
Butternut squash – thawed
Endless left over bits of homemade pastry…. well you get the idea.

Being slightly forgetful I thought ‘I know I’ll cook a few meals and then store them in the fri..’ Dammit the bloody fridge is knackered! In fact it’s so ‘gone’ it’s  warmer inside than the actual kitchen is and we’re currently storing our milk, cheese and butter in a cool box outside the kitchen on the doorstep. Oh for a larder!
Expect to see a few gratuitous food shots as I fight to save the dearly defrosted from the same fate as the heap of junk fridge. I’m off to cook
J x

NOT a Valentines Day Post….

(…or why I love leftovers)

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Like a lot of people I don’t do Valentines Day, after all I love very openly everyday of the year so why should February 14th be any different? Don’t get me wrong I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to spend a horrendous amount of money on a bunch of flowers or sit in an overpriced bistro trying desperately to look besotted with their dinner guest. So why the gratuitous shot of the heart shaped pie I hear you ask? Well I cooked a rather fantastic beef stew a couple of weeks ago and rather than hog the whole lot down my neck I decided to  pop the leftovers into a bowl for  when I fancied a night without having to cook. The dish- well it happened to be heart shaped, the homemade pastry –  buttery and crumbly and the pie – with it’s double egg glaze – tasted sublime.

That’s why I love leftovers. Happy Valentines Day

J x

 

 

Celeriac, sweet potato & parsnip dauphinoise

31 Day Challenge catch up post

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In yesterday’s Skinny parsnips post I promised that if it wasn’t a complete disaster and tasted ok that I’d give you the dauphinoise recipe from our Sunday dinner. Well thankfully it tasted pretty good with enough leftover to serve another meal so for those of you who’d like to try it here’s what I did;

350g celeriac

350g parsnip

150g sweet potato

160ml full fat creme fraiche

260m semi skimmed milk

2 – 3 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like it

fresh or dried thyme

50g Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper (optional)

First of all peel and thinly slice the vegetables (around 3mm if poss). Now I mentioned trying to do this with a mandolin to start with but if, like me, you value your fingertips take your time and use a knife. It may seem brutal but this is my weapon of choice in the kitchen.

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Crush the garlic, grate the cheese and set to one side. Put the milk and creme fraiche into pan large enough to add all the veg (if not you’ll have to do it in two batches). Gently bring the liquid up to the boil – now at this point I have to admit that I had a bit of a wobble as mine started to curdle. Given that I didn’t have enough to start over I decided to strain it over a bowl thinking that I’d use the liquid and throw away the solids but as it then seemed to come back together and more importantly didn’t taste like it was going to kill anyone I thought ‘sod it’, put it back in the saucepan and carried on. Add the garlic and the veg and simmer for about 5 mins. Taste the liquid (which is creamy and garlicky by now) then season with salt to taste and black pepper if you like. Next layer the veg in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the thyme in between. Lastly pour over the leftover liquid and sprinkle with the cheese, and if you like a crusty top just add more!

Bake in the over for around 1 – 1 and a half hours but just check after the first hour that the top doesn’t burn or that it doesn’t dry out.

Enjoy, but don’t blame me for the calories!

J x

 

Skinny parsnips, a dangerous mandolin and other foodie tales

31 Day Challenge Day 27 & 28

I’m back after a couple of days of, well slack posting to be honest and I can only apologise for that. The week has gone so fast and suddenly it’s the weekend, well actually as I’m writing it’s Sunday afternoon. If you’re familiar with me and my  home here on the blog you’ll know that I like to eat and really enjoy cooking so at the weekends my mind turns to little else but food.

Today the weather is is grim and grey so I’ve decided to hunker down in my jammies (pyjamas) and cook something wholesome for dinner and for me that means a roast. Having mixed together garlic, tarragon, butter, salt and pepper I pushed it underneath the skin of the bird, sat it on a bed of vegetables in a roasting pan then added a stock cube and some liquid and threw it in the oven. Today the liquid is actually some flat cava that’s been lying around since last weekend, I’ve not tried it before but let’s keep our fingers crossed that it tastes ok.

For a change,  I thought I’d make a dauphinoise dish instead of making traditional roast potatoes hence the title of this post. Now I may be romanticising a little but I’m sure when I was a child that parsnips were fat, white, hefty looking root vegetables. But it seems that nowadays all the supermarkets can offer us are pathetic looking, skinny efforts that aren’t even worth lifting the speed peeler for. I think one of the keys to a good dauphinoise is to cut the vegetables into lovely, thin slices and having remembered where it was I went into the utility room and rescued the mandolin from the dark corner it’s occupied since we move into this house 5 months ago. Once I’d unpacked it and inserted the 3mm blade I remembered what it is I hate about using it. The blade. It’s sharp. And I mean REALLY sharp. Yes there is a guard on it but having once removed it because it was ‘hampering my progress’ I then sliced off the tip of my finger while making coleslaw. Lesson learned I boxed up the offending gadget and now hardly ever use it because it gives me the heebeegeebies.

I kind of winged it with the recipe and if it works out ok I’ll do another post later with the recipe for you to try for yourselves. IN the mean time here’s how the whole meal turned out, and yes it was delicious.

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As for other foodie tales Sam and I were lucky to have had two great dining out experiences last week. Having missed the delights of haggis, neeps and tatties last Wednesday we ate out at The Gingerman on Thursday evening for a friends’ birthday meal. We don’t do a lot of ‘fine dining’ because apart from it being expensive we eat very well at home. But as this was a treat for Ben we decided to treat ourselves too and it was more than worth it. The ambience was refined but without making you feel uncomfortable and the food was truly exceptional, skilfully cooked and beautifully presented. There are a number of restaurants and pubs in the Ginger group and we’d previously only eaten at the Ginger Dog in Kemp Town. If you get the chance, book a table and try one – you won’t regret it.

Our other eating out experience couldn’t really have been more different, still brilliant but more ‘everyday’ in terms of price. We managed to grab a table at VIP (Very Italian Pizza) on Friday night and as we’d heard they do the best pizzas in Brighton we kept our fingers crossed because there seems to be a lot of mediocre pizza around. But thankfully from the seafood starter to the crispy sourdough based quattro formaggio pizza I couldn’t stop my mouth from watering. It was easily the best pizza I’ve had since leaving Edinburgh. VIP have a couple of venues in East Sussex and the Brighton one has a lovely deli feel to it with pasta, grissini breadsticks and other provisions lining the walls. I genuinely can’t wait to eat my way through the rest of the menu and although I couldn’t finish Friday’s pizza I took the leftovers home in a doggy bag and had it for breakfast yesterday morning. Class!

Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday too

J x

 

 

 

 

That Sunday feeling

31 Day Challenge Day 15

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Slow roast lamb served with roasted veg and cauliflower rice

I feel a bit of a cheat calling this post ‘That Sunday feeling’ given that I’m writing in on dreary Monday morning but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Yesterday I awoke in the same foodie mood as on Saturday when I made the baharat spice blend. I had planned to spend the morning prepping lunch so I wasn’t running around when our guests arrived or doing too much last minute cooking in our horrendously laid out kitchen. (Don’t get me started on THAT kitchen). However that didn’t happen of course, my plans went completely out the window and although she doesn’t know, it’s all Helen Graves’ fault.

Helen is a food blogger and writer based in South London and I came across her Food Stories blog when I was looking for some last minute tips on cooking the lamb for yesterday’s lunch. (As it was I ‘winged it’ when it came to the lamb and you know what? It was absolutely delicious and went down a storm see below*). I was however running around at the last minute because I spent 2 hours, cup of coffee in hand, reading Helen’s brilliant blog which is funny. Not, slightly, wry smile at the side of the mouth, faintly humourous funny. I mean laugh out loud, ‘I know exactly what you mean’ funny (particularly the Craft Beer Pub Rant which you can read here ).

So I know it’s now Monday but if, like me, you love cooking and unpretentious food writing with a wicked sense of humour then it’s well worth a read.

See you later

J x

*After rubbing the lamb with the baharat blend and leaving it overnight I added around 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, loads of onions (or as Helen would say ‘shit loads’), half a cup of water and a lamb stock cube to a roasting pan, then covered in foil and slow roasted it for 4 hours. Get in contact if you’d like more details