Sunday, 26 February 2012

Pause for Lent and a really BIG thank you!

Firstly, if you're here to "pause" you're in the wrong place! I have two blogs, but as this one is a Google blog people get diverted here from the comments. I have my "thoughts" blog over at The View from the Teapot. I hope to see you there.

Here, though, I want to say a big Thank You to Ang from Tracing Rainbows for the lovely, lovely Giveaway gift that I received. I'm afraid I had ripped open the envelope before I thought of my blogging friends, and taking photos, but then I slowed down and savoured my gift.
Millie shows some interest in my present, sitting on top of the bookcase.
Inside there was a handtowel, embroidered with my name - there's posh! Three cookery booklet/magazines - I'll have to try to incorporate the recipes into my River Cottage Experiment as well! A lovely little coaster for my coffee cup, which will be in my study as soon as I remember to bring it upstairs. A tube of shower gel - useful for travelling, and some sticky, shiny stars, which will be used in crafting.

A selection of postcards was also included, which I will delight in using for one of my "Lenten disciplines" (see my PiL post for more details of that)
and - oh, aren't I lucky!? - a book of poems and a beautiful bookmark. The bookmark is already in use, but I do fear for its safety from the Very Bad Kittens who love beady, pretty things. I have flicked through the poetry book, and already found one poem I'd like to share with you, but I'm sure the others will be equally thought provoking.
So, all I can say to Ang, is a heart felt

for your generosity. I feel very blessed.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Next Week from River Cottage

So last week certainly had some successes, but I think my favourite meal was the Patatas Bravas. That really was great, and, with the tapas-y type additions that I made, would be a good informal meal to have with friends. The fried chorizo was a tasty addition too.
This picture, entitled "Flemish Girl Feeding A Cat" appealed to me, as our cats are inveterate beggars of food. The girl appears to have been plucking a chicken, when her Mistigris (which I've discovered is a French term meaning "Pussy Cat". I love it, and may well use it for the name of our next cat, especially if it is grey.) arrived. This is SO like Millie - I only need to start chopping anything in the kitchen, and she arrives, on litttle fog feet. to beg or to steal some titbit or other!

I'm starting an experiment this week, (or maybe I will develop it this week and start next) regarding lunches. As I said last week, I just buy "stuff" for lunch with no real planning, and sometimes I buy way too much, and sometimes - like this week - I buy far too little. So I'm going to plan my take-to-work lunch more carefully, and write on the fridge 5 suggestions for Mr F-D to choose from. I'm also going to try (tho' who knows how long this will last!) to make 4 pasty type things each weekend, to give something other than bread for lunch. This is because I've started having something-on-toast for breakfast, (rather than porridge, as I was feeling a bit sick of porridge.) and don't want to have bread for 2/3 of my meals.

So, lunches next week are: roast veg & cheese with salad, 2 x cheese and onion pasty, meatball sandwich with pickle, and something with eggs (sandwich for me, possibly omelette for Mr F-D) Tomorrow I'll make a butternut squash and coconut soup to have as well.
Other meals:
SATURDAY: Roast leeks with Romesco sauce, bread and cannelini bean hummus. This blog gives more details of how the dish should be made with thick spring onions, but I'm using leeks, and not really chargrilling, but roasting them. Hopefully they'll still be enjoyable. As Mr F-W suggests this dish as part of a mezze, I'm going to also make cannelini bean hummus to try. I can't find a recipe for this - but it's a basic hummus recipe, made with cannelini beans, rather than chickpeas. However, I could have sworn that the recipe said I could use peanut butter instead of tahini, but it doesn't say that now. Hmm. Very strange.
Sunday addition:The leek and sauces was pleasant, though I think it wasn't really hearty enough for Mr F-D who had been out cycling and was therefore rather hungry. We have plenty of bean hummus and Romesco sauce for lunch today. I think the Romesco sauce needs to be poured over something though - but chips (my first thought!) seem a bit much for lunch! Hmmm, I'm not sure.
.SUNDAY: Spiced fried chicken, sauté potatoes and salad. Or maybe sauté courgettes. This is from the recipe magazine, rather than Mr F-W. Basically, fry the chicken with cumin, cinnamon and cayenne. Then when cooked, add some almonds to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes and serve. I wonder whether to roast the chicken, with the spices rubbed into the flesh - less oil/butter (as the recipe states 30g butter plus 2 tbsp oil)
 I decided to warm the Romesco sauce up and use it with the spiced chicken - which I oven roasted in the end. Much less fat was used. I made creamy mashed potato, using the leftover filling from the cheese-and-onion pasties. In fact, these looked so good coming out of the oven that we had one for Sunday lunch, rather than what I'd planned!
MONDAY: Spaghetti Carbonara  but made with a mixture of low fat creme fraiche (not fromage frais) and cream cheese. And I'll probably use whole eggs so I'm not left with whites to use up! 
The spaghetti (well, pasta spirals) carbonara were very nice. I threw in some leeks as well, so we got a few veggies in the mix!
 TUESDAY: Sicilean meatballs. I can't remember where I got this recipe from, but it's in my handwritten recipe folder. Here is the recipe; it serves 2 people.
225g minced pork       20g grated parmesan           
60g fresh breadcrumbs          2 tbsp chopped parsley
zest/juice lemon           1 egg                                  
25g plain flour                        1 tbsp oil
1 large gless white wine         2 bay leaves

Mix pork, cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, lemon and a pinch of salt. Form into 8 balls. Roll in the flour. Chill, if you have time.
Heat oil and brown the meatballs. Don't move them about too much. 
Add wine and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Then add the bay leaf and enough water to cover the meatballs.
Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the juices are syruppy.
Serve, as I am doing, with rice. Or pasta. And a green vegetable. 
The meatballs were as nice as expected. However, due to my rather too enthusiastic simmering of the juices, the sauce had practically disappeared by the time they were ready to serve! So I opened a jar of pasta sauce that I had in the cupboard and used some of that! I'll use up the rest as a pizza topping on Saturday lunchtime - I've planned scone base pizza for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.
 WEDNESDAY: Cottage pie with a mashed potato and turnip topping. Do you need a recipe? I can prepare this before Alison comes down for her weekly apero, and just pop it into the oven. It's the last time I'll be able to do some preparation beforehand, as next week I'll be back to a full day's teaching, getting back at 6.15, just before Alison arrives. One of my students is preparing for her Bac Blanc (mock exam) so doesn't want an English lesson.
 This image is taken from a French site, which says: La Cottage Pie est aux anglais ce que le Hachis Parmentier est aux français mais d'un point de vue personnel, je trouve la Cottage Pie plus savoureuse que son cousin le hachis parmentier, plus riche en saveurs ... peut être le thym, la worcester sauce, le concentré de tomates et le mijotage de la viande dans le bouillon de boeuf qui apporte à ce plat un goût délicieux, un plat familial et simple mais qu'il est bon de découvrir et redécouvrir ...( translation: Cottage Pie is to the English what Hachis Parmentier is to the French, but personally speaking, I find Cottage Pie tastier and more flavoursome than its French cousin. Perhaps it is the thyme, the Worcester sauce, the tomato purée and the simmering of the beef in beef stock which gives this dish its delicious taste; it is a simple family meal, but one which is good to have again and again...)
Interestingly, all the comments that follow, from French housewives everywhere, are positive. Unlike most of my students who declare that English cooking is crap! 
Mr D wasn't well, feeling a touch of the gastro, so Alison didn't come and he didn't want cottage pie. So, as the mince was in handy burger form, instead of "en vrac" I had a burger, with a cheese slice, chippies and coleslaw (Myam,myam) while Mr D made himself an omelette when he felt like eating.
THURSDAY: Dammit, I am going to eat that Quinoa that I bought a month ago!!! But I'm going to try Mr F-W's "winter" version of the still-not-tried Courgette and Onion Quinoa. So we're having Quinoa with leeks and squash. Maybe that will be more successful!
It's Thursday, and I'm just off to start cooking this now. I'm also going to cook a chicken breast, ready for this next week's pasties which are due to be chicken-and-sweet-potato-in-a-mild-curry-sauce pasties. I hope they work - I'm making the recipe up as I go along, to use a cheap curry sauce which I bought in a fit of madness one day. I'm also planning to make curried parsnip soup, using some of the same sauce. I suspect it would be too innocuous for a real curry as it's made for French tastes.
OK, the Quinoa wasn't bad - a bit claggy, but OK. I added some parmesan, which gave it a bit more of a zing. But I'm really, really pissed off with myself about the chicken. I will tell you why in next week's post.
FRIDAY: Winter stir-fry with Chinese Five Spice. This includes Brussels sprouts, which are certainly not my favourite vegetable, and I may not be able to buy them anyway. If that's the case, I'll go for some kind of cabbage.

Someone has written about this recipe: 
"Flipping superb! Who would have thought,  sprouts,carrots,parsnips in a noodle stir fry! Made mine using home grown sprouts onions garlic and chillis.Best recipe I've ever tried! Nearly decided on a chinese takeaway but glad I didn't! My missus quite likes Hugh and is now totally smitten after this recipe of his.Cheers" (I do have to admit to correcting the commentator's grammar!)
But, come Friday night and I really don't fancy vegetable stirfry. It isn't calling me at all. So I used the rest of the bolognese sauce (earmarked for tomorrow's pizza. We'll have "bits from the fridge" instead), the steak haché burger than Mr FD didn't have on Wednesday because he was a sicky-boy, some mushrooms from the planned stirfry and I made a pasta bolognese. That hit the spot, better than a veggie stirfry would have done. But I now have half a savoy cabbage to eat. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, I think..
So there we go. Next Week courtesy of River Cottage. PomPom came for dinner every day last week - does anyone else want me to meet them at the airport?!

PS I received my lovely giveaway present from Ang yesterday. I will tell you about it tomorrow, over at the View From The Teapot. But thank you, Ang.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Apparently, I'm versatile

 Get that! According to Alix at Used-to-Bees, I'm versatile

ver·sa·tile[vur-suh-tl or, especially Brit., -tahyl] 

1. capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavor, etc.: a versatile writer.
2.having or capable of many uses: a versatile tool.
3.Botany . attached at or near the middle so as to swing freely, as an anther.
4.Zoology . turning either forward or backward: a versatile toe.
5.variable or changeable, as in feeling, purpose, or policy: versatile moods.

She has awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award.
Gosh! What a blogging week. First I host a Giveaway, then I win one (huzzah!) and now I have an award. I'm famous!
Apparently, what I need to do now is list seven things about me. Random facts.
I am particularly wet and squashy over animals (even though I eat them, quite happily) Llamas, cats, kittens, rabbits, dormice, puppies, lambs, donkeys, squirrels...they all make me go "Aah!" Though, I need to point out, quite hastily, that I don't eat everything that is on that list. In fact, of those animals mentioned, I only eat two. You can make your mind up which two.

I was born and brought up in Liverpool. I don't have a Scouse accent, although one can be provided, if required. Which brings me on to 


I love acting. When we lived in Milton Keynes, I was a member of a very well-respected Amateur Theatre Company,(Stantonbury Campus Theatre Company)  and was lucky enough to play Rita in "Educating Rita". That was when my accent came into its own! Among others, I played parts in Dennis Potter's "Son of Man", various productions of Mystery Plays, Nicholas Nickleby, LarkRise to Candleford, Milton Keynes: the Musical, As You Like It, King Lear, Scouting for Boys, Man For All Seasons and several Murder Mysteries, with The Really Horrid Production Company which were great fun. I even performed in the new Milton Keynes theatre when it was first opened, with SCTC, in the musical "Hopes and Dreams" which was written about the beginnings of the city. 
Connected to my  theatrical endeavours is fact number 4

I have performed in a play, especially written for our theatre company, with a part especially written for me (or at least, written with me in mind) by the wonderful Bryony Lavery  Within SCTC, there were many excellent women actors (and, sadly, I don't really count myself among that number) who were often fighting (though not literally) for parts. So, as one of the directors was a good friend of Bryony Lavery's, she asked her to come to work with the women of the group and to maybe write a piece for us. What came out of the workshops was the great play "Ophelia", which took, as its inspiration,"Hamlet" but was written from Ophelia's point of view.  I was cast as Raag, a servant in the great castle of Elsinore, whose first action on stage was to look up the shroud of the dead king, and comment on the size of his manhood! As I say, it was especially written for me...!  I've tried to find more details of the play online, but sadly there's not much about it.


I've done this:
That's correct. I have paraglided. Over Puy de Dome, in the Auvergne. It was with a very nice gentleman called Hubert - and while I was up there, flying free-as-a-bird, I was sick-as-a-dog! I do hope it didn't land on anyone walking in the forest below!

I've written a novel. I just haven't got round to contacting any agents about it. It's called "Teaching Donkeys To Dance" and is about someone who moves to France. Even if it never gets published, the writing process was fab. I wrote it in my first year here, when Mr FD was still working in the UK, and coming over every fortnight. It certainly gave me something to do in the long, lonely days...!!!

I have been on the radio. Twice. Oooh, the excitement! Once was on the Radcliffe and Maconie show on Radio Two. They are now on Radio Six Music, but the feature "The Chain" moved with them. On this, the idea is to suggest a piece of music that is somehow connected to the piece played before (if that makes sense) If they pick your suggestion, they phone you up for a bit of a chat. For me, the piece of music before was by The Flatlanders, so I suggested this song. Can you guess why?! (Incidentally, I was at a show on that tour where that video was taken. Great! Birmingham Areana. A-ma-zing!)
The second time was an interview on Three Counties Radio, and a performance of my character Mary Magdalene, on Easter morning. If you read my Pause In Advent, over on the other blog, you'll read my retelling of Elizabeth's story. This was Mary Magdalene's story. It actually led to quite a few speaking engagements, mostly with Mother's Unions, in the Bucks,Beds&Herts area. I didn't get paid though!

So there you are! Seven random facts about me. I'm supposed to now nominate 15 blogs which I read, to receive this award too. But most blogs I have bookmarked are "award free", and don't want to do this kind of thing. But I will point you in the direction of some of my favourite blogs anyway...
Thistlewood Farm shows Kari's beautiful home in America, where she creates some original and beautiful things.
Bread is Pain tells the trials and tribulations of an American adjusting to life in France - vey amusingly.
Beautytipsforministers does exactly what it says - but is interesting for anybody who is in the public eye
A Thrifty Mrs is really interesting, as Thrifty gives hints/suggestions/practical advice about thrifting and saving.
Odd Socks & Pretty Frocks is written by a Liverpool lass. I enjoy reading her slightly off-the-wall comments on life, and style. I wish I had been that stylish when I was youger
I know that PomPom is well known to several readers here, and so is Floss but I'm adding them anyway. Both give very readable accounts of their lives in the US and in France
And finally, Fraise Lachrymose another who shares her life.

Goodness me! How could I forget... there's also Ang over at Tracing Rainbows. I know she is an Award Free blog, but I wouldn't like to forget to mention her. 

I know several of these are Award Free zones, or don't accept awards or participate, but I want to acknowledge that I enjoy reading their blogs, and to say Thank You.

What are we eating this week?

Last week was changed slightly, due to going out on Wednesday - as you'll have read (maybe!) we went to Alison's to have a raclette with her family and her friends who have been stating at their gite.Here is a link to their website, where you can see their gite, but also some beautiful views of the area where I live. The site was designed by Mr F-D.
Raclette is a traditional cheese based meal of the mountains. Originally a whopping great lump of cheese was toasted next to the fire, somewhat like a cheese doner kebab, and as it melted, it was sliced off on top of potatoes, and eaten with cold meats. Alternatively something like this was used:
Hot cinders or ashes were put inside the "bucket", and the block of cheese placed on top. Then, as it melted the slicery- thing on the right would shave off the melted cheese. We have a much simpler version, shown in my last post, where the cheese is ready sliced, put in little pans and put under an electric grill. But it's still delicious!
Our classic painting today is quite appropriate, as many of this week's meals centre around aubergines, tomatoes and peppers. I know these are summer vegetables, really, and so the food miles value is probably not very good...but I do long for vegetables other than cabbagey brassicas - of which I'm not a huge fan. So I'm afraid, that, this week,  I'm mostly buying Moroccan vegetables!

SATURDAY: Aubergine lasagne. This recipe comes from the magazine "Eat In" which I am also working my way through, recipe wise. I've probably cooked about 1/3 of the recipes now. This recipe uses a lot of different cheeses, one of which (cottage cheese) I've never seen in France. I'm adapting it, to use a pot of Cancoillotte (site in French) which is a type of ready made cheesy sauce, which was cheap in Lidl this week. Probably not very cholesterol friendly though, as it says "Pur beurre" (pure butter) on the label! 

For 4 people
3 large aubergines, sliced lengthways
250g frozen spinach, thawed.
250g cottage cheese
150g feta
3 shallots, finely sliced
2 x 350g tomato based pasta sauce
75g mozzarella

Pre heat oven to 200°C/GM6. Spray oil on each side of the aubergine slices (or brush them with oil) and place on a baking tray, in a single layer. Bake for 10 mins until tender. Cool slightly.
Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the spinach. Then mix with the cottage cheese, feta and shallots.
Make layers of aubergine, spinach/cheese mix, and pasta sauces in a greased dish. Finish with the pasta sauce.
Top with the mozzarella. Then bake for 30 minutes or so, until brown and bubbling.

I'm using the Cancoillotte instead of the cottege cheese and feta, especially as my frozen spinach is with creme fraiche. So my lasagne maybe slightly less cheesy than this version. But probably creamier!!
Edited On Sunday:This was very nice, but I think my version was a lot sloppier than the one in the recipe! My spinach-&-cancoillotte sauce was very runny, and then I made the mistake of adding a bit of leftover wine to the pasta sauce, so everything was a bit liquid. However, it was very tasty and with a big thick slice of bread, it fed us very well! I'll use the rest of the Cancoillotte spread on two left over tortillas, with grated cheese and a tiny bit of bacon to make a wrap to have with lunch. Oooh, my mouth is watering already at the thought! We'll have them with more of the very, very thick vegetable soup that I made yesterday. 
SUNDAY: Some kind of made up chicken, bacon, mushroom pasta dish. I have a chicken breast saved from the fajitas on Friday - I only cooked one, with mushrooms, onion,leek and a red pepper. I think there was plenty of filling, even though there wasn't that much chicken. I did purposely buy the biggest pack of chicken breast (6€70 for two, instead of the smallest, which is what I usually do. It's quite expensive, as I'll only buy Red Label, reared-outdoors, fed on vegetarian food chicken)
                                             Here is a happy chicken
The wraps were lovely - crispy and tasty, as expected. As wraps come in packs of 8, and we usually only have three for our main meal, it is good to find a use for the left over two, other than let them go stale, or go crispy-through-freezer-burn in the freezer. I dry-fried them, added a cheese and cooked bacon mixture, folded them and fried them until they'd gone crispy and the cheese had melted. Delicious! The chickeny-bacony-pasta thing was very nice too.
MONDAY: Veggie curry. I've got two or three "part servings" in the freezer. They're all coming out to make a Melange of Mixed Veggie Curry tonight. With rice (no naan breads left, and I'm really not a naan bread making kind of girl.)
My computer decided to go all Pete Tong on me, so I haven't been able to get online all week.  All the updates are done on Saturday. The curries weren't very spicy, but they were tasty enough.
TUESDAY: The postponed Merguez chips and sausages from last week. This is a River Cottage recipe, which I'm serving with a tomato and onion salad.

Merguez chips were yummy. Not much more effort than usual homemade oven chips, but with a bit more interest. Sausages and salsa-y tomato salad. Fine!
 WEDNESDAY: Sweet Potato and peanut gratin. I have linked to this before, as I'd planned to make this a while back, but forgot to buy the peanut butter. Mr FD will be pleased: he loves peanut butter. The only question is, will the jar last between me getting the shopping home and making the gratin?! (As it's only an afternoon, I think the answer's yes. Had it been a few days between the two events, I would have been more doubtful! Actually, I need peanut butter for Saturday's meal too. Hmm. That might be a bit less certain!)

I wasn't totally convinced that this made a meal by itself, so in the end I caved in and served it with some charcuterie and a green salad. I think I was right: it was nice, but as a main course, I think it lacked something. 
 THURSDAY: The postponed Quinoa with Courgettes and Onions. Again, this is a link I've used before. I'm a tad dubious about this one - it doesn't look very exciting - but Mr F-W has surprised me before, so let's Go For It!

Thursday was cold and damp and foggy. I really didn't fancy something that was billed as a "summer dish" so I made a hearty pasta bake instead, with the courgettes and onions, with a bit of an aubergine that I had, a leek, some passata and some chorizo. It was rib-stickingly what we needed.
 FRIDAY: Patatas Bravas, with sautéed chorizo, and a good hearty mixed salad. This recipe isn't quite the River Cottage one, but it's close enough. It also suggests making an aioli (garlic mayonnaise) to serve with them...Hmmm. I might just do that!  

Oh, the Patatas Bravas meal was fab! I pushed the boat out a bit, and not only made the patatas, but a garlic mayo, some garlicky roast courgette and aubergine, and put out some marinaded peppers and olives. With a glass of Chilean red, this was a delight of a meal! Definitely one to make again. Thanks, Mr F-W!

 And so there we are. Some meat, but not too much. We are still eating quite a lot of meat in our lunches - I usually take sandwiches to work, and Mr FD has bread and stuff that's in the fridge. It's been quite a lot of cheese this week. I find it trickier finding healthier options for lunches, as it's usually mostly processed meats (salami, rosette, air cured ham, paté etc) or cheese. I could start making  mushroom paté, etc, or preparing a tasty salad to take...but to be honest, when I get home I can manage to prepare dinner for that night. To start faffing round with lentils and chickpeas, and washing salad leaves, is not an appealing prospect. I'll stick with my sandwiches I think. I do enjoy a nice egg mayo sandwich though. Mmmmmmmmmm. I think that will be on the list for next week's lunch somewhere.
Though, I'm just back to say I've had, for lunch today (Saturday) a big bowl of vegetable soup, made with onions, leeks, garlic, carrots, butternut squash, turnip and tomato. I put in a splash of wine, a chicken stock cube and a vegetable stock cube, some soup pasta and an old parmesan rind. When it came to time to zuzz the soup, I couldn't find the rind, so I just zuzzed it with everything else!!  With the soup I had a reblechon and coleslaw sandwich, and I'm now enjoying a cup of coffee and another slice of pain aux céréals with home made rhubarb and orange jam. And this afternoon, I WILL go for a short walk - the weather is beautiful!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Surfing the River Cottage pages

Hello again, those of you who pop in on a weekly basis! Don't forget that I update each week's page during the week with comments about the dishes. If there's one you're particularly interested in, it might be worth your while popping back to see my verdict. I would like to say that the Warm squash and mushroom salad (about which I was slightlty dubious) was absolutely delicious!

I couldn't give this week's painting  a better title than the one it has:
It is called "The Gourmand". I think "gourmand" is a great word, and it does give an idea of how the French see food - as something to be enjoyed. It is difficult to translate: when I have to explain it to my students, I use the English word "greedy" but it's not that. Greedy is a negative term: to be told that one is greedy is a bit of an insult, but to be labelled a "gourmand" is different. It implies an appreciation of food, a love of food - a delight in food. Look at the face of the gentleman above - he is really enjoying his meal! And I like to think that - in general - we are gourmans. Though perhaps we do eat our food a little too quickly: we don't savour it quite as much as we should, and we eat from trays in front of the TV....though that is partly to save on heating the dining room!

Anyway, here's what the Gourmands of Dormouse Towers will be tucking into next week:
SATURDAY: We're having the delayed spoufflé from last week. Last time I couldn't find the recipe online, but I'm happy to say I found it this time. So for those of you who are intigued by the idea of a soufflé with pasta, here is the recipe. It requires quite a lot of faffing about, I believe, but I hope the effort is worth it.
Yes, the effort WAS worth it! And, in fact, the faffing wasn't too bad. I used frozen, defrosted spinach instead of fresh, and beaufort cheese instead of cheddar. I also used half fat milk instead of full fat, and I didn't use an extra egg white. Otherwise I followed the instructions (not much left the same!!) and it was very nice. I might use more cheese next time, but it was delicious as it was.
SUNDAY: Chilli. I've not had chilli for quite a while - the last planned time, I ended up using the mince that I'd bought to bulk out the failed refried beans and I made something that loked very similar to vomit. (To be fair, it wasn't so much the beans that were a failure as the flatbreads) This time, I'm using steak, rather than mince. A British Mum gives her take on a beef chilli using steak. I'm going to try following her recipe, instead of my usual "fling in what I've got lying around" method.But mine will have mushrooms in, because I've got a lot to use up.
In the end, I didn't quite follow A British Mum's instructions to the letter, but, at her command, I added more spices than I usually would - normally I don't use cumin, or coriander - and they added flavour. Very, very nice. And Mr FD certainly approved of the meat lumps in place of mince. Using steaks from Lidl meant it wasn't really much more expensive. We had this with baked potatoes last night, and there's a small portion each for lunch with bread. If, that is, Mr FD received my message to buy it while he was at Shopi.
MONDAY: Mushroom Risoniotto You'll need to scroll down to find the actual recipe, but the author of the blog seems very keen on Mr F-W and his book. Certainly, I'm with her on that - my only real disaster was the aforementioned flatbreads, though there have been a couple of "meh" dishes.
The Mushroom Risoniotto was very nice - but I have to admit to making it a Mushroom-and-bacon Risoniotto. I threw in half a pack of lardons. I also used a bit less cream and some cream cheese. We didn't have orzo pasta, but I used tiny spirals (forgotten their names) and they suited fine.
TUESDAY: We're having Mr F-W's Spicy Merguez chips. Don't be afraid by the beginning of this blog which is in (I think) German. The recipe is written in English. Basically it's big oven roasted chips with a spicy rub and a yoghurty dip. I do feel it needs something more, so I'm thinking we'll have sausages (possibly merguez!) and a tomato/onion salad. Yummy.
It is our friend Danièle's birthday on 15th, so we invited her for dinner. I thought she deserved something better than Merguez chips and sausages, so they are postponed till next week. Instead we had brebis-cheese-on-toast and salad, with toasted pine nuts, followed by chicken casserole and potato-and-butternut-squash dauphinoise. Then cheese and a bought (but enjoyable) tarte tatin. I had plans to make a pudding, but after 6 and a half hours of lessons, which included getting up at 5.45, and having a meagre 15 minutes to shove a sandwich in my gob for lunch, I really had no inclination to start cooking whenI got home. I'd already prepared and cooked the main course yesterday. We had a lovely evening. Happy birthday, Danièle.
WEDNESDAY: This needs something quickish to prepare as Wednesday is the day Alison comes down and we drink a bit too much and eat snacks that are bad for us. So I'm going to cook Kamchatka. I'm not teaching much today because it's school holidays, so most of my private students don't have lessons; this means I'll be able to prepare the Kamchatka beforehand and just fry the eggs when we're ready to eat. It's not really called Kamchatka, but that's its name in our house!
We were out on Wednesday night - instead of Alison coming here, we went there for a raclette with her friends who are staying at the moment. So I ate too much. Raclette is lovely, but it can be a bit heavy, eaten late at night.
Melted cheese, boiled potatoes, cold meats and salad. Delicious, but the cheese does lie rather heavy! So, since I'd already been organised and prepared the Kamchatka, we had it on Thursday instead...
 THURSDAY: Vegetable Gratin and garlic bread. The recipe for the Gratin is taken from the "Eat In" magazine that I'm using alongside River Cottage. I can't find a similar recipe to link to, but it's basically leeks, carrots, swede and celeriac baked in stock with a breadcrumb and cheese topping. I'm thinking I may add a little cream to the stock to make the sauce a little more unctuous. And we'll have garlic bread with this.
No Vegetable Gratin tonight.(see above)
FRIDAY: I'm thinking chicken fajitas tonight - stir fried chicken, with a few spices, red peppers and onions, wrapped in tortillas, served with guacomole (Nigel Slater's recipe) and some salad. I may make a quick tomato salsa too. Mmm. My mouth is watering at the thought already.

As an aside, I've just read that there was recently a fairly serious fire at River Cottage HQ. I'm fairly sure that nobody from there reads this blog, but still my best wishes go to Mr F-W and the whole River Cottage team.

I hope you have enjoyed this rundown of what we're eating next week. Don't forget, there's a Giveaway over at my other blog - some of my handmade crafty thingies. But you need to be in it to win it!

Sunday, 5 February 2012


To celebrate my 200th post over at there's a giveaway.

Please do pop over to have a look, and maybe join in!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Here we are again!

Here we are, back at River Cottage, for this week's menus and planned food. I am finding that this is an interesting project, trying new foods and recipes. However, I am finding that I'm missing some of the old favourites too: maybe I've been a bit ruthless. Perhaps it has been a bit too much "out with the old, in with the new!" but equally, I have been challenged out of my comfort zone, to use old ingredients in different ways, or to use new ingredients. Maybe in March I'll have a week of going back to old familiar recipes, just because I can!

                                      Entitled: She's Not Been Using River Cottage Veg Every Day!

I think the husband of the lady pictured above might get a bit upset if she started using the River Cottage Veg Every Day - it looks as though he is very fond of his meat! I can't identify everything there, but there's certainly some kind of poultry, a rack of something like lamb or maybe beef, plus something more rabbity looking at the back. However, I do have to report that Mr FD has been very good - very little moaning about less meat. And some positive comments about my cooking in general, so I'm happy about that!

SATURDAY: Porotos Granados. This is basically a bean and squash soup - here  is the River Cottage recipe. It's one of the reasons I changed my mind about the soup I'd planned for today. We had Butternut squash soup instead of the planned Leek-and-bean soup - too many beans might have been dangerous!!! The Porotos Granados looks as though it will be tasty.
Edited (on Sunday)to add: the Porotos Granadas may have looked as though it was going to be tasty, but the best comments Mr FD and I could come up with were "bland" and "meh". I may have overcooked the squash, as it was a bit tasteless, and maybe I should have got rid of my paprika in the Great Spice Purge, but this was unimpressive at best. Not something to be making again. There were both leftovers in the pan (as I'd cooked a lot) and leftovers on the plate (because we were bored with it.) I'll use the leftovers in the pan to make a soup - with some tomato passata and a bit of chilli, and maybe some more vegetables andbeans it should make an acceptable soup at least!
SUNDAY: Slow cooked chicken in red wine sauce, roast potatoes and green beans. I haven't used my slow cooker very much - often I find the resulting sauces/gravies a bit thin and watery for my taste, but I'm willing to persevere. This recipe is from the "Eat In" magazine (but looking on the Schwartz site, to find the ingredients of the mix, I see it's a direct copy from there). It uses a Schwartz "Chicken In Red Wine" sachet, which I certainly haven't got, and I'm sure that will include a thickening agent. But I guess otherwise it's a mixture of herbs and dehydrated red wine (as the recipe doesn't include red wine in the ingredients!) I'll busk on the ingredients, using red wine (d'oh!), herbs and maybe some cornflour.
(Edited on Sunday:) Forgot to get the chicken out of the freezer. So it'll be fast cooker chicken casserole! But as I need to put the oven on to roast the potatoes, I might as well use all the heat and make the casserole in the oven. I may make a cake does a plain sponge with blackberries sound? I have a recipe for rhubarb-and-raspberry cake (absolutely gorgeous!) I could try it with blackberries instead. It may go a slightly grey colour, but it might work...
(Oh dear. Mr FD has got back from his afternoon walk and I think he may get cross. I haven't looked after the fire and I think it's gone out. Oops. To be honest, I've been so cosy in my study -it's -10° (at least) and I'm wrapped up in my Slanket with the oil heater going! - that I didn't think about it. Sorry!) (He's just got in, and while he wasn't exactly cross, he did say "Did you not think to look after the fire?" I just pointed silently to the previous few sentences! He smiled and kissed me. Then he went to watch the rugby.)
Casserole was fine and dandy - lots of wine, mushrooms, herbs, served with green beans, roast potatioes and roast parsnips. I made a blackberry cake too. The blackberries sank to the bottom, but it still tastes good!
MONDAY: Spinach spoufflé Here is another blogger's take on the Spoufflé (no, it's not a typo. It's called spoufflé because of...the spinach? the pasta? I'm not sure...) It looks as though this will be tasty. Probably to be served with a green salad, as it will be quite filling. I'll be using frozen spinach though as I couldn't find fresh leaves in Carrefour - and forgot to look for them when I went to Grand Frais for the squash.
E(on Wednesday) toAdd: We didn't have this in the end. I was teaching until 5.00, and didn't get to leave ILS (my language school) (well, not "my" language school, but the language school where I work) until 5.30, so I didn't get home until almost 6.30. I really didn't want to be messing about with pans of bechamel sauce, so I postponed the Spoufflé until next Saturday, when I'll have more time, and went for: Mushroom and ham puffs (which were in the freezer) with baked potatoes and baked beans. I tarted up the baked potatoes by scooping out the cooked flesh, mixing it with half a ball of mozzarella that I had in the fridge, plus a bit of grated beaufort cheese. Then I put it back in the skins and grilled to go brown. I also cooked a few more mushrooms.
TUESDAY: Leek risotto with chestnuts. Now, I'm not a great fan of chestnuts - don't like the texture at all.It's too much like liver for me. - but I said I'd try everything except goats' cheese and beetroot, so here we are. I wouldn't usually link to the Daily Mail but here is Mr F-W himself's recipe. As printed in the Book. So it makes sense to direct you there. I didn't buy real chestnuts, I'm afraid. Mine are in a jar, rather than vacuum packed, but I wasn't going to faff about with roasting and peeling something I don't really like!
E(on Wed) to add: This was very, very pleasant! I liked the chestnuts, and didn't find the texture off-putting, possibly because they were well crumbled, and fried in a bit of butter. The risotto was very nice too - admittedly, a fairly bog standard risotto, but none the worse for that. I think I would like a bit of parmesan in it, though, and will add it next time. Now though, I have 150g of chestnuts, which, according to the jar, must be used within 72 hours. That was over 12 hours ago, so I only have 60 hours to go....Lordy, what CAN I make?!
WEDNESDAY: I'm not really sure what's happening. We've been invited up to Alison and Gérôme's for drinks (usually she comes here) because it's A's birthday the next day. She said "It'll be quite substantial"so I'm guessing the snacks will be a bit more than just crisps. I'm taking up some hummus . I'm not using Mr F-W here, but the tried and tested Nigel Slater's recipe. this isn't his, but it's close enough. The only Nigel Slater hummus recipe I could find on line was one with broad beans...Not one that appeals much. I'm glad that's not in Mr F-W's Book (though Carrot hummus is. I'm not too sure about that, although I have read rave reviews of it elsewhere, so I will have to try it.). Anyway, I won't plan anything for tonight, but I'll have a jar of pasta sauce and I can throw together a quick meal should we require it.
I ate at my friends' house - Mr FD didn't go, because he wasn't feeling well, but I had roast pork, broccoli and roast potatoes. And a bit too much wine!
THURSDAY:Beef and black bean sauce stir fry with rice. When I reorganised my spice tray (old washing up drainer) last week, I discovered (a) a lot of out of date spices and (b) a sachet of black bean stir fry sauce brought over by Steve and Cathy last year. So I threw away the spices and plan to use the sachet of sauce today. With green peppers and onions and maybe some beansprouts (tinned, which are by far the easiest to find here in France) this should be a good spicy dish. Oooh, look, the photo I inserted has gone to the side. I rather like that! Even though it should be at the side of Thursday's piece rather than Friday's. Oh well!
This was nice, but not as spicy as I'd hoped. 

FRIDAY: I'm going to try a warm salad tonight: Mr F-W's Warm Salad of mushrooms and roasted squash  Now, I'm not a great blue cheese fan - in fact I don't like it - and this recipe uses blue cheese. He does mention the possibility of using a firm ewe's cheese - which I know I can get at Lidl - so I may make it with blue for Mr FD and with the ewe's cheese for me. I don't think that's cheating, do you? Because this is "only" a salad - although it is quite substantial - I'll make a pudding tonight. There's blackberries in the freezer and apples going brown in the veggie rack(see the week before last's post) so I think blackberry-and-apple crumble is called for. Mr FD will be pleased: he's a pudding man.
Do you need a recipe for this? I wouldn't think so...but let me know if you do!
Oh! Oh! That salad was fantastic! I made big crunchy croutons too, which gave an added texture. Mr FD feels the blue cheese that I used wasn't quite full flavoured enough (It was a "Bresse Bleu" type.) but it was full enough flavoured for a gal who doesn't like blue cheese. I'll be making it again. It was great.

And so, there is next week's culinary delights. If you like this, please comment. I sometimes feel like I'm talking to myself here!
 Sorry, I forgot to say...if you're here for the "Impossibilities Challenge" my report on that is on my other blog ( but I hope you enjoyed your visit to this blog too!