Turkeyed-Out

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With all this festivating (is there such a word? I suspect not. Let’s call that a luffy-ism) I’m sure that most folks in the UK that are in the seasonal round of office Christmas dinners and drinks are all a bit turkeyed-out already.

So far I’ve had a couple of Christmas dinners with work and the usual turkey dinner is always rolled out.

I have to confess that I’m avoiding eating this again now until the Big Day in case I totally spoil myself for what I know should be a once a year treat and really special.

As such, it was with great relish that I tucked into a nice piece of steak with truffles and a side order of spinach the other evening.

Succulent, plain, no sauce, no garlic. Just simple and perfect and what I really felt like eating.

There is a place for roast turkey, Brussels sprouts, perfect crispy roast potatoes and stuffing, but that place is not every evening in December.

Two-day beef bourguignon

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It’s blustery, cold and wet out there so just the weekend for a deep bowl of rich, dark, winey beef bourguignon.

It’s been an interesting week at work and a stressful one, leaving me in need of the culinary equivalent of a big hug this weekend, so a two-day, slow simmered stew is just what’s needed.

It’s not a traditional recipe: more a luffy adaptation based on what I’ve got in the kitchen.

Beef, leeks, shallots, carrots, garlic, seasoning, coarse grained mustard, beef stock and a larger than strictly necessary quantity of an old Bordeaux.

But the key is the slow, slow simmering. I will cook this for at least four hours today then switch it off to rest overnight, then put it back on for a few more hours tomorrow until it’s richly brown, well reduced and the meat can be eaten by waving a spoon at it.

Hope you’re all having a relaxing weekend.

A sarnie and a nice cuppa

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I’ve been busy baking Christmas cakes this weekend and to be honest it hasn’t left a great deal of energy left for meal preparation or cooking.

The oven has been on all day and the house smells wonderfully of spices and cake.

It’s lovely, but after six hours of baking the last thing I feel like is making dinner!

Supper this evening was a cold meat and piccalilly sandwich and a nice mug of tea.

Just the ticket.

Release your Wild Christmas

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It’s been several years since I bought a shop bought Christmas cake. It’s one of the many things that are just so much better when they’re homemade.

Yes, I know it’s quite a lot of work steeping dried fruits, chopping peel, and if you do it the old fashioned way as I do, (without a food processor) heavy mixing. But it’s so worth it.

This way you build arm muscles that Rambo would be envious of. These come in useful at Christmas when arbitrating family squabbles, prising the bottle of Sherry from Granny’s vice-like grip or having to carry the turkey and trimmings without aid of lifting equipment to the table.

And it also means that you can whip the things that you like into the mixture. For me that’s loads more cherries and orange peel, which I love, and less dried figs and horrid crunchy currants, which I certainly don’t love. Let the goodness in and the evil fruits go suck.

I’ve also experimented with different types of alcohol to soak the fruits and “feed” the cake in the weeks before icing. Tradition dictates brandy. I often use Pousse Rapiere (local orange flavoured armagnac) and I know folk who use Amaretto for a strong, almond scented hit. Bring it on, baby. You’re in charge!

And the decoration. Express your inner self in creating something unique and very you. I can confidently say that we were the only home in the world with a Christmas cake last year triumphantly displaying a Father Christmas peeing up against a fir tree. This fabulous creation above is from the pages of the Wright Report blog, and how magnificent is this.

Get wild this Christmas.

You know you want to.

Phabulous Pho

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I’m not quite sure how I’ve never really explored this before, as London now has Vietnamese eateries popping up all over the place like mushrooms in October, but the fact is that I had my first proper Pho only a few weeks ago.

Noodles, broth, sliced meat or prawns and a plate of aromatic herbs to add to your bowl, this is a very satisfying – if bloody messy – way of eating.

After my first experience, which left me drenched in broth after trying to slurp from the frankly awkward and inadequate spoon that was provided, I decided that a bib was definitely an essential for any future visit.

It’s not a good look to be left wearing a damp, chicken broth scented and beansprout-bedraggled blouse after a meal, and vague dabbing with the paper napkins provided didn’t make much of an impact.

It’s a testament to its deliciousness that despite what seemed at the time like total immersion in the Pho, combined with faint incredulity at the name of the place (which basked in the unforgettable if somewhat dubious name of The Bang Bang Vietnamese Kitchen) that I decided that this was definitely a keeper.

Here to more phabulous phos and other Vietnamese eating experiences.

Exotic fruitiness

Planning a rather rich and heavy lunch today of roast leg of lamb on a base of haricot beans, garlic, carrots and onions, I was a bit stumped when it came to the dessert.

Nothing I could think of was going to be light or zesty enough after the mammoth lamb frenzy that was to precede it.

Then I thought about fruit salad.

The problem with this is that Luffy’s head remembers the fruit salad of the seventies. Which largely came out of a tin and was drenched in syrup.

Cubes of pale, vague fruitiness floated listlessly around in the bowl interspersed with halved, super-pink things that I thought were probably cherries.

Everything tasted the same.

Now I’m relieved to say the fruit platter that I’ve just prepared looks nothing like that.

It has pomegranate, figs, dragon fruit, grapes, passion fruit and pineapple, all piled up in a glistening pile of exotic fruitiness.

Haven’t we come a long way!

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Strange containers and other tales

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One day in the not too distant future, when this incredibly stupid fad of serving up food in bizarre and unnatural containers has long since faded, we will look back at these times. And weep.

What possessed them? Future generations will ask with a superior smile.

Fancy trying to eat your stew off a garden trowel, or your ice-cream out of a tin mug, they’ll say. Maybe it was the fluoride in the water back then. It must have addled their brains.

And do you know what, I think that perhaps they’d be right.

London, a plea from the heart. Will you STOP and desist from this very puerile trend.

If I wanted to drink my beer from a jam jar, eat my steak off a bread board or pick my chips out of an aluminium bucket I really would expect to be carted off in a white van with nicely padded walls.

Or be making it up as a fairy story to tell my grandchildren on cold winter nights around the fire.

Please bring back cutlery and plates.

Luffy Rant over. Deep breaths.