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Being interesting and innovative at lunchtime is much more of a challenge to me than dinner ever is. Few of my fallbacks are Karen-friendly, and if I've been working all morning then my mind is kinda numb to new ideas. Still: when Karen suggested gently that I might stop fondling my new-to-me vintage mixer and think about actually, y'know, preparing food, I found half a red cabbage sitting on the board, like an open invitation. And the weather is hot, and salads are approved - and I have never been much for salads, so they're inherently interesting and challenging both - so I poked around among m'new vegetarian cookbooks, and oh look. A warm red cabbage salad, with apples and walnuts and cheese! Sounds yummy! All it lacks is something meaty...

So lunch today was one of those well-it-started-as-a-recipe meals, a chicken and red cabbage salad, with the veggie elements fried as it were in the dressing. I'm not sure I've ever quite done that before, with oil and vinegar both in the pan. Works very nicely, I am here to tell you - tho' I did splash a little fresh balsamic into the finished dish, just to brighten it up a bit.

So that was lunch. Dinner is a mystery; I guess we'll be eating in the city. Meantime, though, I've started a loaf of bread. With no fixed notion of when I'll be baking it, let alone when we'll be eating it. I do love my sourdough recipe: you can work it all day and bake it in the evening, or leave it overnight and let it work itself and bake it in the morning, or hold it back a day or two and it'll just keep getting more and more sour and flavourful.

And now I have the mixer, a whole new range of doughs falls available to my repertoire: not the stiff hard-work ones, so much as the soft & slimy. A few years back I invented/developed/adapted a sourdough ciabatta recipe, which was quite the most revolting dough I had ever wanted not to handle at all, thank you very much. But all was well, because I had my old Kenwood Chef to do the handling for me. I haven't made it since, but I do very much want to recover it, because I love ciabatta and haven't found a source here for the good stuff. (There's this smart cafe in Newcastle that sells fabulous artisanal bread from a solo baker - no bread on Mondays, he gets to sleep in - which was always my fallback, and his ciabatta was my default. Also his chocolate-and-sour-cherry loaf was to die for - oh, the bread-and-butter puddings, my humanity! - but only on Saturdays. That is the kind of baker I would be, if I could be a baker.)
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Bless me, internets, for I have skimped; it has been two days since my last KD entry. I neglected entirely to tell you about feeding the yogis on Monday night, how I made saag gosht without the saag and actually probably not gosht either because not lamb, and how I had to make another curry because of apricots, and...

Let me try this-all in another order.

Jeannie brought me apricots. I was going to make an apricot cake, only I lacked ground almonds which they call almond flour over here, and there was none in the store, and I probably couldn't be bothered to grind my own because I have done that and it's a pain. So then I had apricots loose in my head as I mulched around the store; but I had already picked up beef for dinner, so it was too late to go the lamb-and-apricot route. But chicken-and-apricot is also good, and I could pick up a tin of coconut milk and make a Thai-like curry to go alongside the beef-and-spinach that I intended.

Only when I got home I had forgotten the spinach; but I still had a lot of green coriander/cilantro, and I have a Lost Recipe in my head, from a book that seems to have vanished utterly from human ken and/or my library. It was an Indian green curry, where the green came entirely from herbs; I suspect it was lamb/cilantro/mint, but I may never know. Every now and then, I try to recreate it from first principles. So I made a beef curry with lots of cilantro, and a chicken curry with coconut and apricots - and if anyone has the trick of cooking things in coconut milk without the oil separating out, do please share it, because I surely do not have it, no.

Last night Karen and I ate leftovers, viz the beef-and-sweet-potato tagine with a warm red cabbage salad that I really rather liked, and sesame-roasted potatoes that we both adored. Tonight Dave and Katherine are here, and I'm going to make a big bowl of rice and we'll just eat everything else that's left over in the fridge, with dollops of pickle and chutney and sour cream and harissa and whatever. Yum. And then we will have cleaned out the fridge too, which is an act of virtue.

In other food-related newses, my Hobart KitchenAid vintage mixer has left Arizona and is currently in LA. I do love tracking. Even though it gives me yet more opportunities to twitch: it's been sitting there in the Bell Gardens depot for 25 hours! Exactly! What are they doing? Why isn't it moving? Do they have no trucks, planes, personnel...?
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Solstitiality: it is too totally a word, and you-all should celebrate it. *nods*

Last night I made a pork-and-chickpea curry for dinner, with a Gujerati cabbage-and-carrot dish on the side and my infamous lemon-rice-without-the-lemon*. We have leftovers, yay; but those are for another day. For lunch today I revisited the '80s, which must've been when I first came across the notion of a salad ti├Ęde. (In honesty, it's pretty much the decade where I came across the notion of salads in general, as something one might actually want to eat; the record of the '60s and '70s in that regard was less than stellar.) Of course we called them Tired Salads, 'cos look, the spinach has gone all wilty, it just can't hold its head up any more...

Ahem. We were, y'know. Young. We may even have thought ourselves original.

Anyway: I destrung some sugar snap peas (I like doing that, it's pleasantly fiddly and lets some of 'em split open in the pan and spill out their little globes of sweetness) and sizzled them under a lid in olive oil until tender. They went into a bowl, and sliced chicken breast went into the same oil. Sizzle sizzle, join the peas. Then lardons of homemade bacon, same pan, same oil, sizzle till crisp and toss into the bowl with, yes, a couple of handfuls of baby spinach (not from the garden; why don't I grow spinach in the garden?). Then I deglazed the hot pan with red wine vinegar, and that made the dressing. A bit of grey French sea salt, a little black pepper, tossity-toss and there it is. With an heirloom tomato sliced and adorned with torn basil leaves, pepper and oil: a lunch fit for a wife, say I. Tired or otherwise.


*The well-established tradition here is that I simply forget to add the lemon, even if I have the thing sliced on the block there and ready to squeeze - I have a consistent track-record of forgetting last-minute garnishes: when a dish leaves the pan and enters the dish, I just assume it's done, largely - but this week I learned that Karen doesn't actually like lemon rice when I remember the lemon. So now I have to remember to leave it out deliberately. Which is much harder, as it turns out. Ah, the trials of husbandry...
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Yesterday I wanted to cook chicken for dinner; so I went back to The Prettiest Little Cookbook in California(TM), aka Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume, and found a recipe that I was happy not so much to follow as to stroll along beside, as I do (in a sort of "well, I don't have any of that, so I'll do this instead; and put these things in the salad, rather than those; and do the potatoes my way, of course, not yours, Silvena..." and like that). But the recipe called for chicken breasts, and I have no truck with that, I bought a whole chicken; and detached what a retailer would call the crown, viz the breasts still on the ribcage, which left the legs-and-wings-and-back-and-parson's-nose all of another piece. Which I laid skin-side-up on a baking tray and put on a lower shelf of the oven with nothing but a grind of salt and pepper over it while I baked the crown above in mustard and sugar and orange juice, as per recipe, more or less.

And dinner was really nice, but what I am most pleased by is the trayful beneath, which came out looking flat and golden and crispy and delicious, and reminded me of something - which I have now tracked down, and it is the flattened dried salted ducks that Chinese groceries sell as discs, as per this photo (which I ganked from this website, which promotes a place called Cabramatta, which is in New South Wales, very close to a town called Chipping Norton, which is almost certainly entirely unlike the town called Chipping Norton very close to which I was educated, in so far as etc etc):

hunan-3-dried-salted-ducks

Which ducks I used to see in Newcastle, and somehow never quite bought, shame on me; but thinking about them did lead me to write a story long ago in the waybackwhen, "One For Every Year He's Away, She Said," which was published in a magazine that rose and died quite promptly, so that I never can actually remember what it was called; but I do have a copy, and I do mean to scan or rekey the story (of course I no longer have an electronic text, no: it was, what, fifteen years ago? Whatever format I wrote it in, under whatever system; whatever medium I stored it on: long gone or inaccessible. People, learn from me. Archive. Archive and organise and keep track. And make sure that you will still be able to read your archives. I have thoroughly labelled disks in accessible formats and I still can't read them, because they're WordStar or early WordPerfect and my current systems don't even remember hearing about those) and republish it. Along with everything else that I mean to do. That I thought I would be doing, now that I have no current contract and nothing more obvious to be getting on with. Hey-ho. I am myself something of a flat chicken, apparently.

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