Roasted Asparagus Spears

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Inspired by the wonderful Cottage Grove House blog which reminded me what a great idea this was, I rummaged about a bit this weekend to emerge with fresh asparagus spears and bayonne ham as a sort of tapas for partners Birthday lunch today.

I’d seen this preparation method before but never tried it.

Asparagus roasted rather than steamed, rolled in charcuterie slices – in my case Bayonne ham (our local version of preserved ham, a bit like Italian Serrano ham).

I was a bit concerned that it would shrivel into nothingness, but fifteen minutes in a hot oven crisped the ham and softened the asparagus spears deliciously without drying them out.

Do give it a go. This and a glass or two of Gosset Millesieme champagne and a couple of lobster tails made a memorable birthday lunch for Partner with almost no effort.

Don’t you just love impressive dishes that seem like they’ve been a lot of work but aren’t.

All the more time to dedicate to having a good time.

The Bun Abides

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Once upon a time, in Days of Old, hot cross buns only appeared at Easter.

They were a strictly seasonal thing to celebrate, ummm.. crosses. The Crucifixion. A religious bun. Only eaten at Easter.

Considered dangerously popish, I suspect by the 16thC Protestant English Goodwife.

Shops sell these all year round now. The sanctity and novelty of the hot cross bun seems to have diminished somewhat as a result, and I personally at least am left with just a mildly pleasant spiced tea bun that I split, toast and butter liberally when I so desire.

Times have moved on apace. Now it’s possible to buy Kentish Apple hot cross buns, and hot cross buns with Belgian chocolate chips in them.Traditionalists everywhere may be shuddering into their cocoa at the thought of this, but it’s true.

Does the hot cross bun abide?
Or are these no longer hot cross buns?

Englishness on a Plate

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The meal that we’re most famous for as a nation is probably fish and chips.

As such I shouldn’t be surprised to note that the fish and chip shop that I ate in this evening in Central London was completely filled with tourists rather than any native English people. That’s right, apart from me there was a big fat zero on the English stakes.

There were Japanese (took hundreds of photos), Germans (eyed the chips suspiciously), French (horrified by the brown vinegar on the tables), Swedes (asked what oil everything had been cooked in and searched in sad hope for salad) and many other indeterminate nationalities. All in search of the true essence of Englishness, which none I suspect found.

I lurked on my table at the back of the cafe, slowly munching my way through my battered haddock and people-watched in fascination. When people looked my way I cheerily waved my gherkin at them. I got through almost a whole bottle of malt vinegar on my chips.

Yes folks, tonight the fish and chip shop and I were the slightly eccentric entertainment for many nations.

It’s so nice to feel that one is doing ones bit…

Potted Cat

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Supper this evening was supposed to be cottage pie. The beef was in the fridge ready to be minced up for this, but as the temperature soared into the 30′s today and the sun beat down I couldn’t face anything so wintery.

It became crispy chilli beef and rice. But although I took a photo, the steam from the pan fogged up the lens and by the time I’d realised, we’d eaten it all.

You’ll just have to believe me when I say I was quite proud of myself as it was the first time that I’d cooked it and it was every bit as good as my favourite version from the Chinese takeaway in Poole.

Top Wok, your days are numbered!

In place of a plate of crispy chilli beef you therefore have one of Buster the cat in his favourite position curled up in the sun in a pot on the front terrace.How he managed to get everything crammed in there is a mystery, but I guess that’s cats for you.

If he does that once my geraniums are in there in a few weeks time there will be trouble..

Crispy Gers Chicken

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Inspired by Conor BofinĀ and his wonderful looking homemade Kentucky Fried Chicken I’ve made crispy “Gers” chicken and salad for supper this evening.

The great thing about not being the Food Police is that you can go wild and do your own thing with the spice combination in the coating, which was useful as I didn’t have dried garlic.

Being the centre of the garlic world here, the locals consider anything other than fresh garlic the food of the devil, so I tend to shuffle guiltily past the jars in the dried spice section.

I don’t like dried oregano either, so ended up with a selection of chilli powder, pimento, seasalt, ground black pepper, mustard powder, fresh very finely minced garlic, cumin, nutmeg and ras el hanout in the coating before adding the fresh breadcrumbs.

The chicken pieces are soaked in milk for a couple of hours before cooking which seems to make the meat truly succulent.

Gorgeous chicken – and as crispy as a crispy thing in crispy city, as Conor would say. Colonel Sanders, eat your heart out.

 

 

The Stew Anarchist

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I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.

And one of them is that the collected wisdom of ages about how it’s essential to flour and brown the meat to “seal in the juices” before stewing or casseroling is so much hogswash.

I’ve been making stews and casseroles all my life and I can tell you that for most of those years I dutifully seasoned, floured and browned the meat at the beginning of the process as instructed. After all, who was I to question the sainted Delia, Koffman and the massed ranks of professional chefs and cookbook writers.

But in a fit of sheer laziness one day a few years ago I simply threw the meat into a casserole dish with the vegetables and stock and simmered with no preparatory searing, and do you know, nobody died. The meat was juicy and tender and fell apart with a spoon.

And I’ve made my veal blanquettes, daubes of beef and assorted slow cooked casseroles that way ever since.

Isn’t it odd that we’re so conditioned to follow instructions that very time I make a stew but break the rules, like today’s good old beef and carrot stew with herby dumplings, I feel a wee frisson of guilty pleasure.

Anarchist..

 

 

 

 

Blustery Weather and Banoffi Pie

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Today the weather here in the Gers has been incredibly windy.

The trees in the garden are waving wildly and the wind chimes are making an absolute racket in the blustery weather.

The cat has hunkered down on his cushion under the radiator and doesn’t look inclined to move for anyone.

It’s time a slice of banoffi pie to cheer us up.

This is such a quick thing to make that it’s quite dangerous. Luckily, I rarely have the combination of digestive biscuits, condensed milk and bananas needed to make this lying around in the larder, so it doesn’t get prepared too often. Our arteries thank me for that!

A slice of this will warm the soul and keep us rooted safely to the ground whilst the gale blusters around the house outside.