Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I imagined my impossibility (sort of!)

Over on my other blog (View From the Teapot) you can see how successful I was at imagining the impossibility of crocheting...and the problems I had completing (or not) my challenge.
I think I (just about!) earned my "Badge of Honour". Pop over to the teapot to find out how...

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Update on Richard

I know I've just posted my menus for the week, but I wanted to also post an update on Richard.

For those of you who might be reading this who are new, last year I challenged myself to ride 1,000 km on my bike, in 6 months. Not a great challenge, but for a terminally unfit Fat Dormouse, it was challenge enough. But not only that, I wanted to raise 1,000€ in sponsorship - I knew that if people had given me money, I would have to do the challenge. I need motivation, people! I completed the cycling in time, about a week before the end of August, and thanks to a donation from my sister in October, I raised the 1,000€.
Here is my first blogpost about the Challenge.

This money was destined for the Chisomo Community School (link to site here ) which is supported, in no small way, by our friend Richard, who is renovating a house here in St Just. But also, he is trying desperately hard to build new school buildings, with help from the people of the Chisomo village in Zambia, despite his own not-very-good-health. He puts in a lot of his own money and cares passionately about the children of the community.

But, for some reason which I still don't fully understand, he has been persecuted, falsely arrested and spent time in prison. In his own words: "Police cells, prison, court appearances, threats of deportation, death threats, loss of personal possessions, three robberies etc etc." For nine months he has had the threat of a long prison sentence hanging over him, for, as far as he knows, stealing his own property...All this seemingly instigated by the greed of certain people who wanted to take the property that Richard had provided for the school. Unfortunately, due to what has happened the school building plans have had to go on hold:
" By now the 1000 pupils at Chisomo Community School should be in new classrooms, with a sports field and library. Instead they are still in the cowshed we built, using two pit latrines which are foul. Because of the kindness of two donors, we have been able to start work on securing the cowshed, and we are looking at an appropriate toilet technology to build new ones. Maybe one day, we can revive the plans to build a new school."

Finally, on Thursday, we heard that the case has been dropped.Finally. As he says "Hardly a surprise as they admitted to me several times they had no evidence." Unbelievable!!! Richard included in the email a recap of what he had gone through during his time in prison - really quite distressing that this could happen to someone who has only cared about the poorest people in the country and tried to make life better, using his own money, resources and time.

But we can, at least, be thankful that he is out and his name cleared. But, quite incredibly, he plans on returning to continue his work. Me, I'd be out of the country like a rat from a drainpipe, never to return. But not him, he says "I haven' t decided what to do yet long term, or even medium term, as a lot will depend on Immigration and whether they will allow me to stay as a permenent resident. This status means I can come and go as I please." So, while I wouldn't want to go to Zambia, I will be trying to continue to support Richard and the school, through providing resources and money, wherever possible. Maybe you could also donate something to help Richard continue his work for those who need it so much.

More River Cottage Adventures!

After a week of being "off the River Cottage Wagon" so to speak, we're climbing back on again, and eating slightly less meat. However, as Toupargel (frozen food delivery company) are making a delivery on Tuesday, and as our (new) freezer is already full of (old) food, I think I need to make a bit of an effort to clear it, so we will be eating some of the meat therein.
However, here's a jolly fruity old chap to remind me that all these veggies are good for us, and that I should be making more effort to eat my five-a-day. I don't always manage it: I usually have four, which isn't too bad, or four-and-a-half if a couple of leaves of lettuce in my sandwiches count!
Because I write these posts on a Saturday, and list from Sunday to the following Saturday, I have found that I don't usually get to comment on the Saturday food. So from today, I'll list Saturday to Friday menus, so I can comment on Saturday after we've eaten the food. I know what I mean!

So, from last week's post
SATURDAY: Here we have a link to Courgette & Rice Filo Pie from River Cottage. A little like the Spankopitta, I think, but different enough to be worth the effort. 

A book review site said, of this dish: The revelation was the courgette and rice filo pie, which made me regret the fact that I'd just cleared my courgette glut – and then found a recipe I would willingly make on a regular basis.That sounds like a recommendation! It will probably be served with yet another salad. It seems bizarre to cook more vegetables to go with a vegetable thing...but maybe a fairly thickish ratatouille might go quite well with this.
E (on Sunday) tA: This was indeed delicious. I baked it for the specified 35 minutes, but the rice still had a bit of a hard edge to it. I think it would need perhaps another 10 minutes - we had the leftovers for lunch today, warmed up, and it was fine. We had it with rat & half-a-baked-potato last night, and coleslaw this lunchtime.
SUNDAY: Steak, vegetable gratin (already cooked & in the freezer - we had the other on Thursday) and ratatouille from yesterday. Assuming there's some left!
No, not THAT ratatouille!

E(on Wed) tA: steak was delicious - I got it from Lidl at a very reasonable price and it is marinaded, with a good flavour and very tender. The rat was fine.
MONDAY: Gnocchi, with spicy tomato sauce and pork fillet. The pork is left over from Friday's sweet and sour. I was going to freeze it, but when we were transferring food from old frezer to new, I discovered there was already some pork in there. So I'll use this today, together with a tomato sauce that's already made (and, yes, you've guessed it, in the freezer.) I'll spice it up a little, and we'll have it with some veggies. But I'm not sure what. It depends what's hanging around.
TUESDAY: Fish pie (freezer) and peasncrots. Nothing spectacular, but the new Toupargel delivery arrrives today I need to make room!
E (on Wed)tA: The gnocchi was fine: it was of a type I didn't know, where you fry in butter for a couple of minutes, uncovered, to crisp the outside, and then cover the pan and keep cooking for another 4 minutes to cook the inside. It was a bit difficult to do, as my frying pan doesn't have a lid, but I improvised with a bread board! The gnocchi were very pleasant. The fish pie was fish pie, with cauliflower cheese delivered that morning by Toupargel. The cheese sauce definitely helped as the fish pie was quite dry.
WEDNESDAY: Spanish pork in the slow cooker. Hah! More meat from the freezer! Mr F-D will die of shock! I've taken the recipe from the "Eat In" magazine, but This recipe is quite close - except I'm using pork, not chicken!! Mine includes some chorizo as well, but the tomato/olive/pepper/spices base is the same. I'm working in Roanne, rather than Clermont, so won't have to leave at an unearthly hour of the morning, so I should have time to prepare the casserole in the slow cooker. We'll have this with bread.

THURSDAY: At last, we're back to River Cottage! Here we have what is described as "somewhere between a soup and a stew, this mushroom stoup is full of earthy flavour, and can be made even more generous with the addition of some little herby dumplings." I won't be making dumplings, as it's difficult to get suet, but I will be making a more "scone-y" cobbler topping. Looking for a recipe online there is nothing quite the same - creamy mushroom soup, yes, Gill's mushroom soup, yes, but not mushroom stoup...but this porcini soup recipe looks fairly close, although Mr F-W doesn't put tomatoes in his stoup.
FRIDAY: Basil, pesto and mozzarella tart, with salad and a baked potato. The recipe is here, but you'll need to scroll down to find it. It is given as "Tomato, thyme and goats' cheese tart" but Mr F-D can't abide goats' cheese so I'm taking one of the alternatives and adding some pesto to the mix, as I won't be finding fresh basil.

We'll probably have 1/3 each for supper and then have the rest for Saturday lunch, with Bean & leek soup, which, unfortunately, one reviewer has said this about: "Gallingly, it's a bit of a fail from the Hugh. I suppose he had to at some point. I mean it's okay, but it's hardly packed with flavour; it's wishy-washy and just a bit meh and I suspect the chilli oil is just a ruse to cover up it's lack of va-va-voom. I'd rather have a heartier minestrone, or leek and potato next time..." Considering last time a reviewer was a bit harsh about a recipe, it was a complete disaster for me, I shall make this with some trepidation.
I won't bother with the recipe, in case it does, indeed, all go pear-shaped. If it's nice, I'll let you know!
E(on Saturday): I swopped around Thursday and Friday dinners as I was due to be out at a meeting for the Artisanat on Thursday, and I thought tart and baked potattoes would hang around better than the stoup. As it was the meeting was cancelled, due to the weather (it was -10° when I got home at 4.00 and by 7.00 it had got to -13°. Brrrr!). The tart was fine - we finished it today with soup (but butternut squash and coconut, not bean and leek as planned.) 
The Mushroom Stoup was also fine, but my scone/cobbler topping wasn't - I think I neglected to put in enough baking powder, thinking that the "farine de gateau" (which is basically SR flour) would be sufficient. It wasn't, so the scones looked like small pebbles, necessitating a run round the village to find anywhere with bread. As it was 7.30 by then, it wasn't looking too hopeful, but Petit Casino (our Corner shop) came to the rescue, with some part baked loaves.  Mr FD said that the stoup was fine (good earthy flavours, asMr F-W promised) but would be improved with some lardons. I think he may be right!

I've not said anything about losing weight, mostly because I've not been weighing myself, and also because I don't think I have. It doesn't help that I have been making cakes and biscuits...Though my coconut cake (made with half a tin of coconut milk and adapted from a recipe for chocolate banana cake) was a bit dry, and my Cornish Ginger Fairing biscuits were fizzy (too much baking powder) and just a touch overcooked, so they tasted unpleasantly  dark brown! But I have some pineapple rings left from the sweet/sour pork yesterday, so I thought I'd make pineapple upside down cake I've no glacé cherries, but, in my opinion, that's no bad thing!

 I think Mr F-D will like this. He's a one for cakes and biscuits!
Edited to add that I made the cake, and it was very nice...the creamed sugar and butter gave it a lovely crispy/sugary/syrupy topping, and although I only had 4 pineapple slices left (Mr F-D had eaten one!) it was enough to top the small cake I made. I didn't have any juice from the tin so I used a couple of tablespoons of orange juice instead.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this post and do please comment on anything. I'll be updating it through the week to let you know how things go.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Making a splash with River Cottage

So here we are again. Don't the weeks go quickly? I updated last week's post as I went through the weekwith comments about the meals. I think the successes were the root vegetable frittata and the Vegeree, both of which were met with approval from Mr F-D. Oh, and the Pork and Mushroom casserole, which was beautiful, but very rich (unlike me, who is neither of those things!)

I am now adding this after lunch on Saturday. OMGiddy Aunt! The Leek-&-Cheese toasties of Mr F-W were out of this world! I used a "Vieux Pavé" cheese - a softish cheese with a rind, reminiscent of Maroilles. It has a stronger flavour than the Cantal I was planning to use. Possibly a tad too strong for me, but not Mr FD. I would say, if you want a substantial lunch (and you're not too bothered about the calories!) try this recipe. It is Fab-U-LUSS darlings!

Less succesful this week was the mushroom curry (well, the rice really, which is nothing to do with the recipe. That was just my impatience getting the better of me!)

Here is this week's art work:

                                  Entitled "What the heck are we going to do with all these apples?"

Actually, that's an apposite question. We were given a lot of windfalls in October/November - I stored them in coolish places, but some are going a bit brown, so I'm thinking I need to do something with them. But, TBH, we're not great apple eaters. I'm really fussy about the type I eat raw-as-fruit (Ariane only, I'm afraid)

so these will need to be cooked in some way. One of my followers, A British Mum, did a guest spot over at OuR KrAzy kitChEn (not sure why there are random capital letters, but there you go!) with a recipe for Apple and Almond cake, which looks a possibility. Otherwise, I may try to be brave enough to try Tarte Tatin, although when a recipe starts with the words "This classic French dessert can be tricky, but it's delicious when it works" it does rather put me off! Equally though, if my friend (who is not the world's greatest cook) can manage it as well as she does, then maybe it can't be that difficult! (especially with bought puff pastry!)

Anyway. On with next week's menus/recipes.
SUNDAY: Chicken & Tomato casserole (from "EatIn " magazine) This includes stuffed olives and looks yummy. I can't find an exact recipe, but this looks quite similar. However my recipe includes tiny Orzo pasta and a sprinkling of parmesan on the chicken. I've just read the recipe that says chicken breasts, but I've bought legs. Never mind! Just cook for a bit longer, I think.
E(on Tuesday) to add: the casserole was very nice with the pasta included in the cooking. We had it with peas. I'd be happy to cook it again.
MONDAY: River Cottage's Refried Beans foldover I've struggled to find a recipe that uses anything like the spices/onion/garlic combo that Mr F-W suggests. However I did find a food blog that talks about the Flatbreads that are included in the recipe and says "I’ve been using these for mexican inspired burrito-type meals. Below with River Cottage Veg Every Day! Refried Beans recipe, which has been one of the least successful things I’ve tried from the book." Oh, well. Nous verrons.
E(on Tuesday) to add:Quite frankly it was an unmitigated disaster! I don't know whether I had the wrong flour - quite possible. I guessed that Mr F-W's "strong white flour" was the same as "farine de pain" but it may not have been. While Mr F-W said that the dough was supposed to be "sticky" I'm not sure it was supposed to be quite the gluey texture it was! It didn't rise and I ended up throwing the whole gloopy mess in the bin, and adding today's planned mince to the refried beans to make something resembling a substantial meal. It looked like vomit by the time I'd finished, but it tasted okay.

TUESDAY: A good, simple beef chilli. We've not had one for ages, and it is something I like. Good and dark and beefy. I'll be making it with beef, but the British Mum recently posted a recipe for a chilli made with chunks of beef, instead of the more common mince. I'll have to try that sometime.
E(on Tuesday) to add: Due to yesterday's fiasco with the refried beans, I have no mince for chilli. This meant I had to buy something else when I went shopping today. I couldn't be arsed thinking creatively, so I've ought some meatballs which we're going to have with a sauce that uses up all the bits from the fridge - peas, mushrooms, one lonely marinaded pepper, half an onion etc. And rice. Or maybe pasta. It depends on whether we're going to Sylvie's tomorrow: we still don't know!

WEDNESDAY: We may be at our friend Sylvie's for dinner: it's not been confirmed yet. If not, I'll do a quick fresh pasta-pesto-and mushrooms dish. The pasta's in the freezer and the pesto is in the jar.
E(on Friday) tA: pasta, pesto and mushrooms - exactly what it says. Except I added some bacon!
THURSDAY: This is a River Cottage recipe, but I am going to cheat and add some sausages (possibly merguez) on the side. Sweet potato and peanut gratin. Here is Mr F-W himself introducing his recipe. We'll have it with a salad as well.
E(on Friday) to add: You can't make sweet potato and peanut gratin if you forget to buy any peanut butter! I made an ordinary gratin, but I mixed sweet potato, ordinary potato, jerusalem artichokes (I love their French name: topinambour! How great is that?! I think it sounds like a medieval musical instrument), and a couple of old carrots, slightly shrivelled mushrooms, sliced onion and garlic. Served with merguez sausages and peasncrots (the Fat Dormouse name for mixed peas and carrots) Mr F-D can't quite believe the amount of meat he's getting fed this week!
FRIDAY: Sweet and sour pork is on the menu for tonight. Taken from my recipe magazine, it sounds nice - and a bit different from the usual stir-fries that I do. The recipe suggests putting a batter on the pork - presumably to make it like the pork balls from a Chinese restaurant. I don't do deep frying, and actually don't think that the batter adds much to the dish as a whole. Stir fried with onions, a couple of peppers (red and green), and pineapple chunks, the pork is mixed with a sauce made of the pineapple juice, ginger, soy, rice wine vinegar and cornflour. I have a suspicion that I may well be throwing in a good glug of the sweet chilli sauce that I found in Lidl this week. 
E(on Saturday)tA: the stirfry was okay -I did find that I had no sesame seed oil and no rice wine vinegar, as I'd thrown them out on Monday. This was because in a fit of I'm-not-sure-what I cleared, cleaned and reorganised our big cupboard in the kitchen. Stuff (old, rusted woks) got taken to the recycling bins, and things more than 2 months past their use-by date got thrown away (rather too many to mention, but the vinegar was almost a year too old and the oil over a year...shades of my mother, I'm afraid. At Christmas, Mr F-D found stuff in her cupboards from last century. And some of her herbs are nothing more than slightly green dust!) So, as I was missing a couple of "oriental" ingredients, the stirfry lacked a bit of flavour. But Mr F-D was delighted to have meat yet again!
SATURDAY: Here we have a link to Courgette & Rice Filo Pie from River Cottage. A little like the Spankopitta, I think, but different enough to be worth the effort. 
A book review site said, of this dish: The revelation was the courgette and rice filo pie, which made me regret the fact that I'd just cleared my courgette glut – and then found a recipe I would willingly make on a regular basis.That sounds like a recommendation! It will probably be served with yet another salad. It seems bizarre to cook more vegetables to go with a vegetable thing...but maybe a fairly thickish ratatouille might go quite well with this.

So there you are! Next week's offerings. A bit meatier than last week, I think, with chicken, mince, sausages AND pork! 4/7 days with meat instead of 3/7. I don't think I'm finding bills much cheaper eating more vegetables, and trying every recipe in the book, but I am enjoying having different things to eat. Yes, there are some things I won't be making again (Macaroni Peas, anyone?!) but there are definitely one or two so far that will make it onto the "Family Favourites" list when this experiment is over. It's really making me use the recipe book, instead of just looking at the pictures and enjoying the writing: I'm quite pleased that I decided to do this, and while we've got a long way to go, but I'm starting to think "Well, I've got a couple of Nigel Slater recipe books that I've not used much...!"

 (I always knew I liked Nigel Slater, and now I know why. He's a cat lover and has three cats.)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Notes as we go through the week

We were unpacking the shopping, and Mr FD said wistfully "It would be nice to have a bit more meat..." This week is a bit veggie heavy - but I've planned chicken, mince and fish in the next week, so that should make him a bit happier! It was quite a big bill today - 50€ in Lidl, 10€ in Grand Frais (veggies & fruit), and another 50€ in Carrefour. I did pick up a few "big" items, and a couple of store cupboard essentials that I was running out of, but it was more than I'd hoped to pay. I'm not trying to cut back that much, but, like everyone, we need to try to tighten our belts a little.

We are also trying to have two non-alcohol days a week. That's not too difficult, really. I like to open a bottle at the weekend, which usually lasts us through Friday and Saturday evening...I usually end up opening another bottle on Sunday, so that's Sunday and Monday evening. Tuesday is no alcohol, Wednesday is when my friend comes round, and we do usually polish off another bottle. I do wonder if maybe that's a bit too much, and whether we should try to cut back a bit there! Thursday wil be the other no alcohol day. I don't think it's too difficult. I would miss my wine if I didn't have it - I like the taste! - but I'm quite content with a glass of sparkling water instead.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Next Week With River Cottage

So, Saturday again, and back with next week's menus. Throughout last week I updated last week's post with comments about the recipes tried - so if you want to know how this week's offerings go, you will need to check this post for updates. In general, I would say that the Pasta with greens and Noddy's Sausage Plait were the two real successes, and the others were fine but nothing special. I still have to make the "Macaroni Peas" which is tonight's meal - and, quite frankly, not something I'm looking forward to! (But then I thought the pasta and cabbage would be a disaster, and it wasn't, so I live in hope!) I will let you know my verdict tomorrow.
E (On Sunday) TA: The Macaroni Peas wasn't quite as horrid as I'd anticipated. It was just boring. I didn't want to finish my portion, because I was bored with it! Mr FD suggested that it would be good as a starter (if one made a pasta dish as a starter.) "About a third of the amount would be just right" he said. General verdict: not nasty, but not the best thing I've ever made.

Here I am, at my dinner table...Yeah, right!! We're eat-from-a-tray-on-our-laps I'm afraid. It saves heating the dining room. And the cats can beg for scraps more easily

Any plans to do exercise have been thwarted by a really horrid cold, which has maybe left me with a bit of a chest infection. I am certainly coughing more than I would like - and while last night was fine, the two nights before involved waking up and coughing my guts up for five minutes at a time. Nice! Luckily, for Mr FD, I've decamped to the spare room, and although he can still hear me, as the internal walls aren't very thick (external walls are about 50 cm thick!), I feel a bit better about full-on coughing when I'm in a different room.I also find anything more strenuous than making a cup of tea leaves me a bit breathless - and, while I know I'm unfit, I don't think I'm quite that unfit!

So, this week's menus:
SUN: Just to add (on Sunday) I'm making a parsnip, carrot & butternut squash soup for lunch (and hard boiling an egg. I fancy egg mayo sandwiches!). I've thrown in the odd potatoes from Friday too - they're a bit creamy, so when I add the milk at the end of cooking, they should meld in quite well. I'm also hoping the odd texture won't show once everything's been zuzzed. But for dinner tonight we have:
 Pork & Mushroom casserole, with jacket potato, cabbage and carrots. This is the closest recipe I can find, but mine uses Marsala wine (but I'll be using Muscat) instead of red wine. It also suggests having fresh coriander sprinkled on top, but I haven't got any, so we won't be doing that. Nor will I be using dried porcini mushrooms (have you seen the price?!) but adding some Wocestershire sauce to give a bit more flavour. Not the same, I know, but...tant pis!
E (on Tuesday) tA: this was delicious, but very rich. I couldn't quite finish my portion. Lots of cream, plus a buttery jacket potato made for a very full fat dormouse. We had roast veggies with this and a bit of broccoli.
MON:  Squash & Chickpea stew. This is a River Cottage recipe - Here is a link to someone else who has made the recipe...She certainly sounds as though she enjoyed it, so I hope we will too! It contains lots of ingredients that I love, so it looks hopeful.
                                                          Image from http://moroccanfoods.blogspot.com
E (on Tuesday) tA: The squash & chickpea stew was fine - nothing special, but certainly enjoyable. It had lentils and tiny pasta in so it was certainly filling. I'd make it again, quite happily.
  TUES: Vegeree Another River Cottage recipe, which is tagged as a kedgeree without fish. It uses roasted aubergines, courgettes and onions. The roasting of the aubergines apparently gives them a "smoky" taste. I'll have to fry (or maybe poaching would be better) the eggs for Mr FD as he detests hard boiled eggs. This is a link to someone who has made the recipe: I have to say it's a very "edited" version of the recipe - but, TBH, it covers the bare essentials, without going into the details about rinsing the basmati rice and covering the pan with a damp teatowel that Mr FW goes into. Is it necessary to cover pans with damp teatowels? Can anyone tell me why?
E (on Thursday) tA: This was really rather nice. It had the Mr FD seal-of-approval. I followed the faffing about with teatowels instructions, & it certainly made for a lot of fluffy basmati rice. I think I'd probably do it again. There was a lot of rice for the amount of vegetables, though, (I halved the recipe) so I used some in the frittata on Wednesday.
WED: Oven Roasted Roots Frittata Oh, we're going for the River Cottage recipes this week! In order to save time (and energy) I'm roasting the vegetables for this meal at the same time as I roast the aubergines for yesterday's dinner. This is a link to the Tesco recipe site - it is an almost exact word-for-word copy of the Mr F-W recipe. I hope whoever nicked it is paying copyright fees! Even the photo is the same!
E (On Thursday) tA: This was really nice too! Having roasted the veg on Tuesday, it was quick to prepare, although it took about half an hour to brown nicely. We had about 1/3 each, with salad and bread. The plan was to have the rest for lunch today, but we were down in Roanne (spending lots of money on fridge/freezers, vacuum cleaners and food processors!!!) and it was 1.45 and we were hungry. So having spent lots of money, we threw caution to the winds and spent some more going to "La Boucherie" which is a chain restaurant serving great hunks of meat! Mr FD was missing his meat!!!It wasn't haute cuisine, but it was enjoyable, hot and - important when you are suddenly ravenous! - it came quickly. We'll have the left over frittata tonight, or maybe for lunch tomorrow.
                                                         This is a different image, from http://www.taste.com.au
THURS: Quick Mushroom Curry. This is from the cookery magazine I mentioned last week. I can't find a similar recipe, but, in brief, it uses a lot of mushrooms, an aubergine, a couple of courgettes and a green pepper, cooked together with curry spices. A fairly bog standard curry, but it doesn't look as though there's anything to make it "saucy". It says "add a little water" if the mixture becomes dry - I suppose the veggies give off water as they cook - but I do prefer a slightly wetter curry. I may add half a tin of chopped tomatoes to give a bit more sauce.
                                                             Image from http://www.restaurantsnepal.com
FRI: Quick cook salmon, again from "Eat In" magazine. This is salmon fillets, cooked in foil with lemon and herbs, served with spinach leaves and leeks. Alternatively you can cook it in the microwave, but obviously no in foil! I'm going to be serving it with jacket potatoes, probably, or maybe a quick potato gratin, so I'll bake it in foil in the oven.
E (on Saturday) TA: We're having the salmon tonight...Because Thursday was our "Meat Feast" lunch, we had the mushroom curry on Friday...except I couldn't be arsed following a recipe. I just cut up a load of veggies and added a curry sauce from a jar (Pataks Balti) that Cathy had brought over sometime last year. It wasn't fab - the curry was OK, but the rice was too wet (I'd followed Mr F-W's method, but didn't give it long enough to dry out & become fluffy - too impatient!) and I hadn't seasoned it enough.Never mind. So the Quinoa with courgettes and onions will be saved for another day. I couldn't find Quinoa by itself, but found a mix of grains which included it (in the Bio section of Carrefour), so I'm guessing that will do.
SAT: Leek & Cheese toastie (for lunch) and Quinoa with courgettes and onions . Here is a link to Jenn's page - she obviously loves this recipe. Good, as this is another I'm not sure I'll enjoy. I've only had Quinoa once before and I was a bit dubious about it. As far as I can remember it was a bit of a strange texture. TBH, I'm not even sure I'll be able to find Quinoa in Carrefour here in France, and I'm not planning on trawling Health food shops to find it, so I may end up making it with couscous instead.
                                                          Image from http://lacer.wordpress.com
The Leek & Cheese toastie - this is a leek & cheese rarebit, I think. The Guardian has Mr F-W's recipe (scroll down) using blue cheese, but in the book he uses Cheddar. I'll be using the French cheese, Cantal, which is similar to cheddar, although not quite as strong. I think this will be fitting fuel if we are cycling. And will just be full of calories if we're not!!!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

More Adventures at River Cottage

Generally, last week's recipes/meals were well received. No complaints from Mr FD about the reduction in meat, and everything was eaten, although as I added to my last post, the tomato sauce was disappointing.

Here are next week's meals - I'll edit and add comments through the week.
SUN: Chillies stuffed with Beans (except I'm using peppers) Mr F-W's recipe is on this link. The recipe suggests grilling & skinning the chillies/peppers. I'm not sure I'll bother; I'll probably just roast them for 15/20 minutes or so before stuffing & baking.
Edited (on Monday) to add: Mr FD really wasn't very keen on the idea of this recipe, I think, so I swopped it. We had Chachouka (see last week) again, but I threw in some chorizo to add to the spice level. Eaten with bread left over from lunchtime it made a very nice meal. I'll have to replan our beany peppers for another week. 
MON: Prawns with ginger - a fairly basic prawn stirfry with a sauce made of soy, ginger and honey. This is served with rice and sautéed leeks. I've taken this recipe from the cookery magazine "Eat In". However, Mr FD will be relieved to see some meat, even if it does have a fishy tang!
Edited (on Tuesday) to add : the recipe seemed a little dry, so I made up a sauce of cornflour, Muscat wine (tho' you could use sherry), rice vinegar and soy sauce. Together with the honey, this gave enough "wetness" to the dish. I didn't faff about with caramelising the ginger as the recipe suggested and I added some red peppers. Otherwise it was a very acceptable dish.
TUES: Pasta with greens, garlic & chilli Here is a link to someone else's site who made this. They used spinach, I'm using a savoy cabbage.
E(on Wednesday) TA: I was ready to not like this meal. It sounded boring and unpleasant, and I was in A Bad Mood. But actually, with quite a lot of chilli and garlic, and possibly too much parmesan, it was much more enjoyable than I expected. I might even make it again some time.
 WED: Chicken & vegetable stir fry. This is also from the cooking magazine. A fairly bog standard stirfry, it uses sweet chilli sauce to give it a bit of a kick. I'll use one chicken breast in the stirfry, and one to make Coronation Chicken for tomorrow's sandwiches.
E (On Thursday) to add that it was indeed a bogstandard stirfry. It wasn't helped by the fact that what I thought was sweet chilli sauce was just chilli sauce (of which I now have 4 different varieties!) I added some honey - but not enough, as the jar was almost empty. I used both chicken breasts though, as one looked very miserly, and we had bits for lunch today. I've also forgotten to take the fish out of the freezer, so we may be having sausage plait for supper tonight. We Shall See.
THURSDAY: Fish pie. I have some hoki in the freezer which needs to be used up, so I'll use one fillet of hoki and one of salmon. The recipe includes a bechamel sauce made using Boursin or something similar; that should add some flavour. (I'm fairly rubbish at bechamel sauce) I'll serve this with peas. I'm not giving you a recipe as I assume anyone can make a fish pie. Forgive me if I'm mistaken!
E (On Saturday) TA: It was a fish pie. It was OK. I made two and put one in the freezer (having cooked the previously frozen hoki first). I should have made a bit more sauce, as it wasn't really wet enough. I'll try to remember to make a pouring sauce when we eat the other - or maybe have cauliflower cheese or something similar as a vegetable.
FRIDAY: Noddy's Jammy Sausage Plait (Go, Sir Nod of Holdsworth!) This is the basic recipe, but instead of using an onion, Sir Nod suggests using onion jam or something similar. We have chutney galore and I may even have some onion jam to use. In the recipe magazine "Rock star Noddy Holder shares three of his favourite sausage meals" - you see, the life of an ex-Slade front man is not all champagne and canapés!!!

We shall be eating Noddy's plaits with carrots, courgettes and possibly a tin of baked beans to give a bit of "sauce" to the whole meal.
E (On Saturday) TA: I liked Noddy's Sausage Plaits. We actually had them as sausage triangles, as my circular pastry didn't really lend itself to plaiting. I used peach chutney, which was nice, but maybe next time a little cooked onion wouldn't go amiss. I warmed up a tin of potatoes in a cream sauce, to give the meal a bit of "wetness" but they weren't very nice: they had an odd texture. Next time, just stick with veggies, or something else saucy.
SATURDAY: Macaroni Peas I can't say I am particularly looking forward to this, but I did say I would try everything in the book, and I turned to this page. So here's the recipe (You'll need to scroll down to find it, but it's there.)
I'm not a particular pea fan, so it will be interesting to find out how I take to this recipe.
E (On Saturday)TA: I'm still not looking forward to this one!

As I said earlier, I'll edit and add through the week if I've got any comments on the recipes. I hope you find this interesting and maybe useful. Thanks for your comments - if I inspire someone else to try some new food too it will be great! I think it's too easy to get stuck in a rut of cooking the same cycle of dishes - often all very similar - which can sometimes sap your enjoyment of being in the kitchen. I'm hoping that this will at least get me excited about what the evening's meal is going to be...and if I can spend slightly less on food then all to the good!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

River Cottage Veg Every Day

We received this recipe book for Christmas. (Here is a link to the Amazon page) and , as usual, I flicked through, thinking "Some of these recpes look lovely". But I also dismissed some as sounding a bit wierd,or having ingredients that I don't use...but then I decided that I should really try to use this book. After all, we could all eat more veggies - and probably less meat - and it could well widen my horizons.

So, from this week, I am going to use RCVED at least twice a week for main meals. And I thought I could blog here about the success, or otherwise, of the recipes. I don't think I can reproduce the recipes on my blog, as I suspect that would be a breach of copyright, but if I can find them on the Internet I'll link to them.

As the blog is called "Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner" I will also note any weight loss (and I do need to ose some. I fear - though I've not checked - I've put on all that I lost last year)...But I won't be faffing about with charts that require maths. I'll just add a minus/plus whatever weight.

So: meals this week (Sat to Sat). If the recipe's from RCVED, I'll put it in italics

SAT: Corner Shop Spanakopitta (Link - though not to Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe) . This was really good, served with a potato dauphinois gratin, and vegetables. I made it into a plait (it was new year's eve, so I had to be festive!) It was, in fact, only planned for our vegetarian guest, but the duck that the rest of us were due to have wasn't defrosted!!!
                                                                          Image from http://erincooks.com/spanakopita-pockets/

My recipe was slightly different, using puff pastry, and only feta cheese. Mr FW also suggested using fennel seeds, which I did, although I'm not convinced they made much difference to the final taste. Toasted pine-nuts were also added with the feta cheese, which gave an interesting other texture to the dish. Certainly I didn't miss meat in this meal - it was very satisfying. We had a quick mushroom paté (see below) for starters,and pavlova for pudding. Yummy.
SUN: Roast duck for the meat eaters, and Chachouka ( link  ) (though again, not Mr F-W's) for our vegetarian friend. We had it without the eggs as a vegetable, as well as roast potatoes.

MON: Raclette (melty cheese, woth boiled potatoes, griddled vegetables, and salad, plus cold meats for the non vegetarians)
TUESDAY: Aubergine parmigiana Our friends had left by now, so it was just Mr DFD and I. I was tempted to serve this with cold meats (as I had a lot in the fridge) but then decided I should keep to the meat-free plan. I did add some sun-dried tomatoes and marinaded peppers to the tomato sauce, which gave it a good depth of flavour. Served with bread and green salad. It was very good and I'll definitely cook it again. (Recipe - someone else trying it )

WEDNESDAY: Mr FD's take on Duck Parmentier - using up the left over roast duck from Sunday. It was very tasty but I can't offer you any hints to what he did. A Parmentier is basically the French word for the basic shepherd's pie/cottage pie, but usually slightly less "sloppy" than the UK version. Mr FD's duck parmentier definitely came under the "sloppy" banner, but it was still delicious.
THURSDAY: Moroccan Mushrooms and cous-cous. This isn't from RCVED, but from a magazine I bought in the UK, called "Eat In". As I usually employ the same tactics to recipe magazines as to recipe books, I've decided to do the same with this, and try all the recipes out. Here. is the recipe, but I can't comment on it, as I've not cooked it yet. I suppose I should really wait until after the meals before posting, so that I can say what I thought of it. Maybe I'll be sensible next week!
Edited (On Saturday) to add that this was delicious! I added a bit of chilli to the dish, and threw in a splash of my "Red Pepper sauce with wine vinegar and Piment d'Espelette" so it was a tad spicier than the recipe, but I'd definitely make this again. Served with a slice of the artisan cereal bread bought at the market. Nom,nom.

FRIDAY: Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto This really is Mr F-W's recipe! Mr FD chose this one (well, OK, he chose the number 273 and the recipe is on that page!) I'm making the roast vegetable sauce today, along with a pumpkin, chilli and coconut milk soup for lunch. It's nearly 11.00 already. Where has the morning gone?! I'm going to have a busy afternoon doing all today's jobs! (Ironing, choosing a friend's birthday present, filling in a long form, and phoning to make an appointment - which is something I keep putting off as I hate speaking French on the phone. But the more I put it off, the bigger it becomes! Screw your courage to the sticking point, Fat Dormouse!)
E (on Saturday)TA I found this sauce a little disappointing: the texture wasn't good, although I must admit to not following the instructions. Mr F-W said to push the tomatoes through a seive, but I found that too tricky & time consuming and just zuzzed them. Maybe this was the failure. Also, making it with pale winter tomatoes mightn't have been the best idea; it possibly needs full, rich red summer tomatoes to get a proper sauce.
We had it with pasta, rather than as a risotto, as we ate at different times. I had a "Galette des Rois" evening at my Language school, so I didn't get home until gone 8.00 (having eaten too many pistachio nuts and crisps...Sigh)
SATURDAY: Quick Lamb Tagine from "Eat In".And here is the recipe for this.

Approx. 300g mushrooms chopped finely (chestnut mushrooms are good)
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2/3 packet of boursin cheese (flavoured or not, as you wish. I used chive and shallot flavour)
25g butter

Melt butter and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add mushrooms and cook gently for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and put in bowl. Add cheese and parsley. Mix well. Put in serving bowl and smooth top. Chill for about two hours. Serve with bread/toast. Or spread on crostini.
                                                               Image from http://www.stumptownsavoury.com

I can't say yet whether this "Project" makes my food shop cheaper, as I actually shop from Wednesday to Wednesday, but certainly my shop yesterday, which covers half of the above meals, plus the first half of next week's, was about 30€ less than my average cost. I only bought lamb for the tagine and prawns for Monday's meal on the meat front, so costs were immediately down....but there were other big cost things that I didn't have to buy this week, so maybe it's swings and roundabouts. But I hope it may make us healthier.

Edited to add - I've done all my jobs! Ironing done, friend's birthday present chosen and ordered on Amazon (I won't say what it is, as she might read this blog!), long form almost completed (they want copies of my teaching certificates. ooh-er, can I find them, I wonder.), and appointment made over the phone (Can you believe it - the first appointment is in June!!!! Though, as I write that, I think 6 months to see a consultant is fairly normal in the UK; it's just that I've been a bit spoiled here in France)