desperance: (Default)
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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I've wanted Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe ever since it came out in the UK, a couple of years back. It's my ideal cookbook: lovely to look at, full of flavourful and interesting recipes and my favourite ways to eat.

I finally bought a copy a month ago in Santa Cruz, yay. And have been fondling it gently ever since, and not actually, y'know, cooking out of it. Certainly I hadn't planned to use it today. I was going to be busy today; we'd eat leftovers.

Only then it got mentioned in a comment, and then I remembered that Karen was going to yoga tonight after work with some friends (not me! I am resisting manfully: I might love being superfluid with my ankles tucked behind my ears, but I would hate the process of getting there, and it's all about the process, so), and I thought, "Hummus. Hummus is healthy. I shall make her hummus." And I opened the Rowe and yup, she has a recipe for hummus; and of course hummus is lovely but it doth not a dinner make, so I browsed the salads, and found a recipe for shrimp with an avocado/tahini sauce, and we have avocadi and you can't make hummus without tahini, so...

So yeah, there will be shrimps and salad and sauces and hummus and toast. I didn't quite have time to sort out a recipe for pita bread. But I did send her off to yoga with a big tub of hummus for our friends. I love this thing where you can give food away, and people are pleased rather than offended. It means I can carry on over-catering without a qualm.
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As loyal focused readers will remember, I toasted all the bread in the world two days ago, and ate it up. Yum yum.

Which meant, of course, that there wasn't any bread for yesterday (bread was rising, but my sourdough process takes all day and the day before) and Karen was working from home, so I needed to feed her.

As those of you with deep memories will remember, when I was in Provence a couple of years back we went to a restaurant where the speciality was pasta with sage and whisky, flambeed inside a giant cartwheel parmesan cheese. I've recreated that at home without the cartwheel (I have to do it in a saucepan, sigh), and as I have a giant thriving broad-leaved sage in the garden here, my first thought was to do it again.

Only then I remembered that I only had fabulous whisky, and I just ain't doing it with that.

So I thought okay, butter, then: sage butter is a classic with pasta. Fusilli and sage butter and parmesan, sounds like a lunch to me.

And then I thought, I have some mushrooms. Mushrooms and fusilli and sage butter and parmesan. Sounds like a lunch.

Garlic. Garlic and mushrooms. And fusilli and sage butter and parmesan.

Bacon. Bacon and garlic and mushrooms and...

So what I did, I fried sage leaves in butter until they were crisp, and set them aside.

In another pan I fried bacon in its own fat until it was crisp, and set it aside.

In another pan I boiled fusilli until it was al dente, and set it aside.

Going back to an earlier pan, I fried mushrooms in garlic and butter and olive oil; then I added the pasta; then I added the bacon. There may have been more butter, also salt and pepper.

Then everything went into a bowl and I stirred in grated parmesan, and scattered the sage leaves on top.

Let's just say there weren't any leftovers.

Marmalade

Jun. 13th, 2012 01:04 pm
desperance: (Default)
One spare recipe makes a post, right? Cathyn asked me how I made my marmalade, and I told him; and then I thought, two birds with one stone, post it for everyone.

So: this is my process which is mine, developed through long ages (well, two years? Maybe three?). Technically this is an Oxford marmalade (viz Seville oranges and quite long cooking), but I think it would adapt to other citric fruits.

First, wash and weigh your fruits. Remember that figure.

Now put them in a big heavy pot and cover them with water. Remember that they probably float, so don't be deceived into adding too much water (but don't worry about it either; if you have to cook off extra water, you just get darker richer marmalade). Boil the whole fruits for an hour, then leave them soaking in that same water overnight.

Next day, fish them out and leave the liquid in the pan. Lay doubled-over muslin or cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl. Cut each fruit in half, scoop out all the innards - flesh and seeds together - and dump same in the colander.

Take sugar equal to the original weight of fruit (you did remember that figure, right?), stir it into the liquid in the pan, and set it over a very low flame. Stir occasionally, while you go back to the hollow rinds of your boiled fruit.

Cut each rind into shreds, depending how chunky you like your marmalade, and add those to the pan. Keep stirring to help the sugar dissolve. (You can also warm the sugar in a low oven before you add it; that helps too. I used to buy confectioners' sugar in the UK, but I can't find it over here. Don't buy the stuff with pectin added; you do not need extra pectin. Trust me on this.)

Tie up all the scooped innards in their muslin or cheesecloth, to make a bag of it. Squeeeeze out all the liquid you can, into the bowl beneath (which will already have caught a lot of drippings). Add that liquid to the pan; then add the bag of innards. Retain the colander in the empty bowl; you will need it later.

Don't let the liquid boil until the sugar has dissolved. Once you're happy that it has, bring the thing to a vigorous boil. Stir it often. If you have a thermometer, bring it up to 220-odd degrees, the setting point for jam. Whether you do or not, test it anyway on a cold saucer (see internet for details). Once it starts wrinkling, it's ready. If you're making lime marmalade, test early and often; lime seems willing to set before it should be ready.

Once it's at the setting point, turn off the heat and let it sit undisturbed for ten minutes (this helps prevent all the peel from floating to the surface in the jar. Don't ask me why, but it does). Meanwhile, fish out the bag of innards (carefully! boiling sugar! very hot innards!), set it in the colander and squeeeeeze out as much liquid as you can, using a wooden spoon or a spatula or anything except your bare hands for the purpose.

Empty all that extra liquid back into the pan; it's not just full of flavour, it's full of pectin too.

If there's any scum sitting on the surface of your pot, stir a lump of butter into it. That dissolves the scum. Don't ask me why.

Meanwhile, ever since you warmed the sugar in the oven, you've been sterilising jars in there too, right? See internet for details. Or you could just run them through a dishwasher cycle with no soap, that works too.

Fill your hot jars. Carefully. Apply clean lids - using oven gauntlets: not-quite-boiling sugar! very hot jars! - and allow to cool.

Wipe off any sticky spillage, label up and you're done.
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Tonight I get to invent my supper. I have pigs' cheeks and mushrooms and onions and garlic and wine and cream, so that's easy. And once it's all stewed down into an unctuous gorgeousness (oh, and I might add a head of fennel too) then I shall put same into a dish and top with mashed potato and crisply goldenify the top and oh yes. I shall call it swineherd's pie, for obvious reasons (because "pigsty pie" sounds much less pleasant, since you ask).

Saag aloo

Jun. 7th, 2011 01:22 pm
desperance: (chillies)
In honesty, I've never been that wildly keen on restaurant/takeaway saag aloo. Which, being my only experience, meant that I'd never thought to make it.

Last night, though, we had leftover lamb curry; and there were new potatoes, and there was spinach, so...

So I did this, and to be entirely honest? I think it is much, much nicer than any saag aloo I've ever eaten. As witness the fact that I can't stop eating the cold leftovers this morning...

Here's what I did:

Halve your new potatoes lengthwise (don't ask me about quantities: there might have been twenty. Or thereabouts), and simmer in salted water until tender. Drain, and allow to cool.

Slice a large onion and fry in oil 'til soft and a little coloured. Add a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped, and an inch or so of finely slivered ginger. Add a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of garam masala (all measurements hugely approximate, dependent, etc). Sizzle sizzle.

Add the potatoes, and fry until golden. You may need a little more oil at this point.

When the spuds look gorgeous, toss in heaps of spinach, and keep tossing until it wilts.

Eat.
desperance: (Default)
Okay, so this is what I did. With occasional illustrations!

First, I mixed 150g of an active sourdough starter with the same of tepid water and the same again of plain flour. Covered that over and sat it in a corner and ignored it for a few hours, until it was all risen and excited.

Then I creamed 100g of grated butter (because I had forgotten to take it out of the fridge and let it soften) and mixed that with a couple of eggs and a squirt of honey and a splash of vanilla extract. Then 100g of milk went in, and then the starter-mixture; and finally 350g of flour and 10g of salt.

Which all makes a really icky dough; Karen has never been so close to coming home to an unexpected present (KitchenAid mixers, at $150? It's a steal. I'd rather have a Kenwood Chef - the motors are much more powerful, the machines are much more flexible - but they don't seem to be available over here. And besides, $150...). But it's sourdough, and it doesn't really need much more than time to work; so I beat it about until my arm was tired, covered it and left it alone for a couple of hours, and beat it again, and by evening it was nicely risen and I could move on.

I had meanwhile made the filling: 100g of butter melted with 50g double cream and 150g dark sugar and a splash of vanilla extract. And the cinnamon! A couple of grams, I think. You could use more.

Set that aside to cool, and then flour a board and work your dough into a rectangle. Spread the filling over, roll it up and cut into slices. Like this:

cinnamon buns (process 01)

cinnamon buns (process 02)

Then lay the slices on a floured baking tray, like this:

cinnamon buns (process 04)

cinnamon buns (process 03)

You may make yours prettier and neater than mine, if you like. That'll be fine.

Cover the tray and leave it overnight. In the morning, you should have a trayful of risen doughy bunshapes.

Heat your oven to a medium/hot hotness (gas 6, or thereabouts; 400/200 in various electrickeries) and slide the tray into the middle thereof. Have a look after twenty minutes; give it twenty-five, and you should have golden buns. Take 'em out, pour melted butter all over 'em and begin to devour.

cinnamon bun
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In other news, I got up this morning to find dry pasta scattered with a wilful paw all over the dining-room floor.

But! This is mainly significant of the fact that the pasta/parmesan/sage/whisky interface is a success. Even without the great wheel of parmesan to mix it in. I can see it becoming a signature dish.

Also, I bought extra-large satsumas in the market yesterday. These turn out to be indistinguishable from, um, oranges. *is impossibly naive*

And several of you asked how to make a raspberry almond cake, so here are your instructions:

1. Start with a recipe for apricot cake, and fail to find any fresh apricots.

2. Cream 175g of butter with the same of caster sugar. (If the butter's too cold, grate it. And try not to let the cat lick the grater.)

3. Beat a couple of eggs, and mix them in gradually. If anything wants to curdle, add a tablespoon of flour to stabilise it.

4. Fold in 175g of self-raising flour, and 100g of ground almonds.

5. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk, and a lot of raspberries. A lot. It might have been 300g. Actually it might have been more.

6. Dollop into a cake tin - mine was 22cm, non-stick, spring-form - and bake at gas mark 4 for an hour or so. Next time I might leave it a little longer.

Actually, next time I might add chocolate in some form or other. I know there are those among you who do not believe that chocolate makes everything better, but they are a heretic sect and we shun them. *shuns*
desperance: (chillies)
You do what you can, with what you've got.

I appear to have invented the curried stuffed marrow, with sag aloo on the side.

It's very good.
desperance: (Default)
It's all strategies of avoidance, really. Even my novel, my wurrrk: even that, these last weeks, has been a device to save my having to deal with other stuff.

Still'n'all. Let us not blow our own cover.

In the interests of New Food: I made this up, I did. Draft #1 was a few weeks back, granted, but that still rates as New.

This lines up with all known hashes, bubble & squeak, etc etc. Probably people have been doing this for generations, but not me. I did this yesterday.

No reliable quantities given; use what you have, or what you want.

Roots: potatoes, carrots. Were what I used last night. Swede, turnip, celeriac would also be fine, in or out of proportion. Or more exotic roots, indeed. Anyone for salsify?

Peel, chunk and boil your roots till tender. Drain, add salt and pepper and a dash or two of olive oil, mash till smooth.

Alliums and greens: onions, leek, garlic. Chilli, celery. Were what I used last night. Orchestrate to your own desire.

Peel & slice the onions, set to sizzle in olive oil. Chop and add chillies to taste (or, of course, not). Crush, chop & add garlic (ditto). Slice and add leek and celery, and saute until all is soft and scrumptious.

Stir the whole panful into the mashed roots.

Heat the oven, medium-hot (note: in Chazworld, all ovens have three temperatures: cool, medium and hot. Your world may vary).

Form the mixture into balls, and set them on an oiled baking-tray. Pat flat, slide them into the oven and leave them there until they are golden-brown and crispy on the outside, meltingly savoury and yum within.

Eat with whatever you fancy, then start thinking about how to do them differently next time. (A little turmeric in the mix, to go with fish marinated in lemon juice and Indian spices? Add an egg, for extra richness? Cabbage, to go with bacon...?)(Oh, that reminds me, I forgot: I had the heel of a smoked ham, so I chopped that up, fried the bits crisp and stirred 'em into the mix before baking. That's the kind of food it is.)
desperance: (Default)
Okay, this works rather well. In the interests of full disclosure: my improvised white chocolate ganache did not work quite so well; it was a leetle more liquid than intended, so it kind of slid off the cake overnight and pooled on the plate. This is, um, not photogenic, hence no photos; but it's not exactly a disaster either. I just serve cake with a dollop of icing on the side...

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

85g cocoa
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g vanilla sugar
280g beetroot
3 eggs
200ml sunflower oil

First, cook your beetroot. Some people roast 'em in their skins, and then peel; some boil in their skins, and then peel. Both of these take time, which I didn't have. I peeled 'em, chunked 'em, boiled 'em till a knife slid in; maybe half an hour. Then I flushed 'em with cold water till cool.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a large bowl with a large pinch of salt.

Whizz the cooked beetroot in a food processor. Add eggs one at a time, then the oil, then the sugar.

When your gloop is smooth and of a pinkness extraordinary, stir it into the dry stuff. Pour the resultant batter into a lined loose-bottomed 23cm cake tin. Bake in a medium oven for 45 mins or so, until firm. If the surface cracks, don't worry.

Cool on a rack, then ice it better than I did.

[ETA: I am fairly sure you could do this with grated raw beetroot. I am fairly sure, indeed, that you could take any carrot cake recipe and substitute beetroot in whole or in part. Just, this time I was kinda following a recipe, with variations. Next time I may be looser...]
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Okay, so the bread was a bit dense. Which I take very personally - I do not bake dense bread; and besides, I have paid in pain and setbacks for this loaf - but it was an odd recipe anyway. Next time I will follow my instincts.

Next time I make a Bey's Tagine, I'll use a rubber mould. It stuck catastrophically, even to my favourite well-seasoned loaf tin; I served it as a mountain of rubble, rather than neat layered slices. People still ate half of it, though, so that's okay. Tastes nice. (Since you ask, it's basically minced-lamb-and-onion distributed through a layer of spinach, a layer of cheese and a layer of parsley.)

And then there was the conger eel tagine (sounds unlikely, I know, but it's a genuine recipe: onions and raisins, chermoula of parsley, coriander and saffron) and the rabbit-and-celery ragout (which was another genuine recipe until I added the celery) and the squash-and-chickpea vegetable stew that I'd have to go downstairs to check the name, because it has apostrophes and unpronounceability in its favour. Almost as if it came from a fantasy novel, la.

And the rhubarb cake! All hail the rhubarb cake. With rose-petal preserve, to go with the rosewater in the recipe.

My house is full of dirty dishes. And empty of contented guests, but only because they all went home.

Today I shall do the washing-up, and that might be about it. I can haz day off?
desperance: (chillies)
I was drifting around the food market, feeling, y'know. Vulnerable. And there on my favourite fish stall was a conger eel. A whole conger eel.

Big things, conger eels. Who knew?

And then I drifted up to the bookstall, and there was this cookery book I was looking at - and whaddayaknow? A recipe for conger eel. I just couldn't let the coincidence pass me by; how often do you see conger eels on a slab?

And another book had an attractive-sounding recipe for rabbit, and a stall at the farmers' market was offering wild rabbit, so...

So, yup. I had a retail accident, concerning books and fudz. Details are redacted, not to spoil any surprise; people apparently read this blog, sometimes. If you're coming to dinner tomorrow, though, be aware: rabbit and conger eel, oh yes.

Status

Dec. 1st, 2008 01:47 pm
desperance: (Default)
Pages: five so far. One before coffee, just to deserve it; two more in the Lit & Phil, and two more more once I got home, while the bigos heats.

I love this notion of the bigos. You do have to like cabbage (its base being red cabbage, sauerkraut and onion, simmered in stock, with various meats flung in and mushrooms, apples, prunes: a hunter's stew), but I do; and the notion is that you reheat it daily while the flavour matures, and every day you fling in something new. Today it's a couple of the Landjäger links (what could be more appropriate, when jäger means hunter?), tomorrow I think green beans, the day after that perhaps cherry tomatoes. Like that. The notion being, of course, that every day you take out more than you put in, so that it doesn't actually go on for ever...

In other news: I really do need to become rich. Either that, or stop behaving as though I were rich already, stop spending money I don't have on things I don't need. Stopping's hard, though; I've been trying for thirty-odd years and not managed it yet. A wise friend once said to me "Don't spend less, earn more," and I've very much taken that on board these last years. Except for, y'know, the "earn more" bit. Obviously...

Still, what with winter holidays coming up, you-all could buy more books? That'd make me richer. Oh, and while you're about it, you could pre-order my friend Daniel Fox's novel too, Dragon in Chains. You know you're going to have to read this sooner or later, so you might as well lay it in now. And give it to other people too. What could be nicer, after all, than an end-of-January gift, just when everyone's given up expecting...?
desperance: (chilli)
People do keep asking, so okay: this is how I make my scratchings.

First, obtain some pork rind. This is probably the hardest part of the process. My own local supermarket (Morrisons, for those of you in the UK) happens to sell it, in among the joints, for extra crackling; I buy it when I see it, and freeze it against a need.

The only ingredient else is a herby salt. I mix granular sea salt with herbes de Provence or erbe di Siena; Lakeland sells a pre-mix called "Good With Everything", which is also good.

Now you need a sharp kitchen knife (sharp, please) and a baking tray.

Light your oven and let it warm. Meanwhile, lay out your slab of pork rind rind-side down, and rub your herby salt into the fatty side. If the salt's at all fine, be abstemious; I'm quite generous, but the salt I use is like hailstones, and half of it goes pinging off in the process.

Now roll up your slab of rind with the herby fatty side on the inside, and slice it into fingers (I did ask for a sharp knife, remember? But it's actually easier to cut through in a roll).

Now lay your fingers of rind on the baking sheet, fatty side down, rind side up. Turn the oven to the lowest possible setting - really truly - and slide the tray in on the bottom shelf.

Close the oven door, and leave it.

Stay away.

Do all this in the morning, and leave it till the evening. Eight hours is certainly not too long.

You will find that some of the fat renders out (yay! it's healthy!); you can drain that off at this point.

Now turn the oven up to middling-hot - gas mark 5 or 6 - and put the tray back in at the top of the oven.

Now you have to keep an eye on it, because over the next twenty minutes or half an hour, that pork is going to scratch.

There are three stages to this, and only two are desirable.

First, your dried-out but still floppy fingers are going to turn stiff and crunchy. This is good.

Second, they are going to pop like popcorn, turning light and crunchy and lacy inside. This is better.

Third, they are going to burn. This is not good at all.

The trick, obviously, is to catch them between stages two and three. You have perhaps five minutes.

They'll probably curl up; they may go three-dimensional. Catch them while they're still golden-brown, before they go black - but try not to be pre-emptive, don't lose your nerve and take them out before they've popped. That way lie broken teeth, as you discover bits that are still leather at heart.

Any questions?
desperance: (chilli)
What d'you get if you start off with a bowl of good gazpacho (made with roasted cherry tomatoes, say, and organic cucumber, red pepper, etc) and thin it down to the constituency of juice, then add tabasco and vodka in due proportion?

Yup, Bloody Mary for all. Rather a high-class Bloody Mary, indeed. Slurrup.

(I learn en passant - wonderful thing, research - that my own regular recipe, which includes sherry as well as vodka, should more properly be called a Bloody Bishop. Okey-doke, I can do that.)
desperance: (chilli)
I know damn well that there is a bottle of mustard oil in this house. Which is why I did not buy mustard oil this morning, when I bought urad dhal and other necessaries; similarly why I did not buy mustard oil when I bought a papaya this afternoon.

However? I am having doubts about my damn fine knowledge. I cannot find the mustard oil, tho' I have searched everywhere and many times. It is not actually impossible that I used it all, to make a pickle. I am profligate that way.

Anyway: the dhal that needs it cannot have it, as I am not going out again today. I will get a bottle tomorrow, and add a little to the leftovers to see what a difference it makes. For reference: the addition of papaya to the mutton curry? Sensational. It was good before; now it is fabulous. I may have to make another one, though, as I still have half a papaya.
desperance: (chilli)
I may have mentioned it before, my habit of cooking curries sequentially: yesterday the core, the mutton curry; today the dhal, with leftovers; tomorrow the vegetable curry, with leftovers of leftovers. It's a sort of crop-rotation system: I could feed the same guest every day and he'd never quite have the same meal twice.

Today, the dhal. I like dhal. I have tried many recipes, and liked most of them; and my spectacular disorganisation sense of adventure means that pretty much every time I make it, I'm trying yet one more.

Today's recipe? Has prunes in it. Prunes. I'm presuming that the original demanded obscure dried Afghani plums, but this version wants prunes.

O-kay. I'll try anything. Once...

Mango fool

Jul. 20th, 2008 06:24 pm
desperance: (chilli)
I am aware that some of my people, even some of my best people are ... not quite like me. Honestly, I do know this.

They might, for example, not enjoy cooking as much as I do. Or shopping; they might not be natural shoppers. I know.

However. Things have come to a pretty underpass, when you send a man out for papaya to go in the mutton curry, and he brings back mangoes. Mangoes. Which you do not notice, of course, until you need to cook; by which time, its being Sunday, the shops are shut and it's too late to correct.

In vengeance, I have used the extra-hot chilli powder. He'll be sorry.

In other news,

the internal digestive troubles of a cat )
desperance: (Default)
One of the pleasures of being from home is how life is suddenly various. I am a creature of habit who enjoys changes, so long as I don't myself have to make them. I am not a natural volunteer; I like having stuff thrust upon me.

Last weekend, staying in Cambridge, I was totally cooked for, by a Marquis who clearly loves to cook and does it very well indeed. Love that. This week, staying in Henley, I have been totally the cook in the household. It makes sense, as both Helen and Mark work late most days and get home later; and I love this too. It's very different from cooking at home, though: all-new meals, mostly from recipes, in an unfamiliar kitchen.

It's regatta week in Henley, and on Thursday we took a picnic down the river. I've never catered a picnic before. Cold food far from home, with a minimal provision of comforts, condiments and fall-back positions? Hmm. So not what I do.

It did work, though, so I'm chalking that up on the repertoire: Chaz now offers Picnics. Chicken and rice salad with chickenskin crackling (the best bit: I made that up), chorizo and mushroom tart, beef rolls, raspberries with maple cream and shortcake. I forgot the olives, but that was not catastrophic.

The beef rolls were stuffed with breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley and pine nuts: maddening as a recipe ('spread the mix on the steak', it says, but how do you spread something so entirely dry and disintegratory?) but nice as a mixture. And there was lots left yesterday, so I reinterpreted it as a tuna tart. Which was entirely easy - add tin of tuna including oil, add half a carton of creme fraiche, sloop it all together and bake in a pastry crust - and entirely cheating, because the pastry came from Waitrose.

It's not my fault, guv. Pastry is my weak point. Which makes me bleed inside, because I read once that no man can consider himself a good cook unless he is a good pastry-cook, and I'm just not. It's the rub-the-fat-into-the-flour bit that troubles me; I was never good at this, and these days it actively hurts my fingers, so I tend to avoid it. At home I let myself use the food processor, as legitimate pain-avoidance that produces a competent result, but there isn't one in this house. Hence, Waitrose. I did at least buy baking-beans and do proper blind baking, which makes me feel a little better, but still. Bought-in pastry.

I'm trying to put it down as another factor in the variety, and hence a good thing. But I'm still blushing.

Also, it's all avoidance. I spent lots of time yesterday considering how to rework a bowlful of breadcrumbs and cheese, mostly because I'm barely getting any work done. I have started three stories, and can finish none of them; I can't even think about the novel. Long walks along the river are no substitute; nor are young godlings in boats or out of them, with loud posh laughs and silly blazers.

Still, I have finally read "The Princess Bride", so that's something achieved at last; and now I'm reading Patrick Gale (with thanks to [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de for both) - and see how swiftly, how deftly I turn away from the subject of the work I am not doing? It's like that in my head too. As is this whole damn long entry, chuntering on about other stuff, heaping a haystack over the needle lest it prick me again.

Ouchie.

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desperance

June 2017

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