Category Archives: General

A Cunning Plan

Tomorrow night’s dinner is now entirely prepared:

  1. we start with antipasti – some salami, prosciutto, olives, &c. – all of which simply get turfed out of the containers in which they were purchased
  2. the slow lamb and pommes boulangères are sitting in the fridge and will simply be put in the oven the moment I get home from work
  3. a hermetically sealed bag of pre-prepped spinach will be steamed just before mains are dished
  4. tinned baby figs will be served with mascarpone for pudding
  5. some port and stilton seems unseasonal but it’s TOO DARNED COLD not to seek solace in these trusted things.

Dealt with.


More Boxes

Still here. Just about. Normal service will resume. Just as soon as I’ve sorted out those accursed boxes.

In the meantime, don’t forget that the first of this season’s Seville oranges are now in the shops.

Moving House

Sorry about the silence. Have been moving house. Normal service will resume once I’ve unpacked the kitchen.

So many boxes.

DIY Coffee Roasting

A quick report from Muppet Labs.

On a whim, obtained a bag of green coffee beans. Note that green beans weigh twice as much as roasted beans, so beware of the prices.

Beans into heavy black iron frypan, in single layer, and on the stove at medium heat. When I say heavy, I mean it: this is the frypan that needs both hands to move around. Window open, extractor fan on max. Stirred every minute, and then pan shaken to restore single layer. Cracking sound effects (known as “first crack”) acheived after ten minutes, stirring upgraded to almost constant, but gentle.

Another five mins and suitable darkness acheived. Sample bean extracted and crushed under knife handle (watch out! hot!) to verify innards were brown. Beans emptied into coarse metal sieve (holes around 1.5mm) and gently shaken to remove chaff.

Cooled for ten minutes, then into the grinder, and thence to the espresso machine. (But even better if you can wait 24 hours, it seems.)

Quite tasty: not the usual coffee flavour, but more fruity and floral.

The flat now smells ace.

Sweet Chilli Salmon

Barely a recipe at all, this just shows off one of my favourite condiments of all time.

Put some salmon fillets or steaks into a bowl, with one tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce per piece of fish. Let them sit at room temperature for about an hour, turning if you can remember. A teensy splodge of neutral vegetable oil in the frypan, and then fry. (I do flesh side down for 2-3 mins, then skin side until a bit of white salmon fat starts to ooze out the sides and the middle is still looking very slightly translucent.)

Job done.

(Don’t serve with anything more complex than a green salad.)

Onions in Vinegar

Nigel Slater very usefully points out that if you soak onions in vinegar and salt before putting them in a salad, they become mellow.

Even better, if you don’t need to use the whole onion in a salad for two, you can leave the remains in the vinegar, in the fridge, and it will keep for at least a week.

And it will become tastier and tastier and tastier.

Red onions, red wine vinegar and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt.

I wonder if I make a whole jar, with some molasses and mustard seeds as well?

Crème Brûlée II

Have tweaked my notes on crème brûlée.

They puffed up after 45 mins at 140ºC, were promptly rescued (as soon as I could get the foccaccia dough I was kneading off my hands!) and served with no ill effect. (Although not having a test serving, I had to dish them up with fingers crossed that they hadn’t curdled.)

Still a slightly stressful pudding. Recommend you prepare one or two more than required, so you can sample in advance. That could just be my greed talking.

Extra Strong!

Just a quick note, re the “Extra Strong” Canadian flour from Waitrose. Was throwing together some dough for a small loaf, not really concentrating*, and ended up with a loose, but only slightly too sticky dough. Subsequently peered at the water jug and realised that I’d used it all, so was consequently working with 100% hydration, and the dough wasn’t pouring off the bench. In fact it made a rather tasty loaf with more oven spring and bigger holes than usual.

Must try this again. Soon.

*I don’t have a solution to insomnia, but will sometimes while away the hours by making bread, rather than just lying awake in bed feeling sorry for myself. The results are sometimes erratic when I’m not awake as I think.


Whoops. No new posts for a while. Nothing sinister, just work, life, the festive season, and a festive cold. I’ve not resorted to a month of takeaways, but didn’t think you’d be interested in repeats of tried and tested stuff already published here.

(There is a goulash recipe in progress – which smells and tastes pretty darned good – but looks just a little too much like pet food for my peace of mind.)

Asparagus Season

The Great British Asparagus Season is upon us. Joy. The asparagus from my local fruit and veg shop is £2.50 a bunch, but fantastic, the stuff from the supermarket is £1.30 a bunch, and a bit woody.

I do mine in the stockpot, tied up, and stood upright. They only need about an inch of water, boiling gently, for about five minutes. The boiling water sorts out the stems and, as the lid is on, the resulting steam does the delicate tips.

I serve them with aïoli.

Cunning trick. If you tie them up, and find they won’t balance, hold them in place with the tongs for about thirty seconds. The boiling water will soften the stalks enough that you can then take the bunch to one side and slice half an inch off the bottoms easily.