Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A four way

Bob was been a real Alan TITmarsh (her words) this year and cultivated plentiful veg in her garden.
She harvested the runner beans yesterday and gave some to me, Roast, Chaz, and the rest for herself.
We all planned to cook them that evening and assumed each unique dish would reflect our personalities...

Fran: I had read about a broad bean, artichoke, shallot and white wine stew with polenta in the weekend magazine. Being such a rule breaker I took that recipe and ran right off with it to make a garlic, runner bean and courgettes stewed with sherry. The trick apparently with this is to drizzle good oil and parmesan on it after. Or hemp oil and brie. Whatever you have. It's always welcome.

Roast: Roast is very green. He's recently done a Thames mud flats clear up and advised us that plastic bottles take 1000 years to decompose. To reflect this he only used green vegetables- broccoli, broad beans, the runner beans, peas and pesto, with gnocchi. Al Gore would learn a thing or two from that dish.

Bob: Ole firecracker loves the sting of a dry white wine hitting a hot pan of arborio rice so sizzled up a runner bean risotto with a later chapter of unctuous stock, parmesan and 75g butter oozing off the plate. Obviously given some pep and zip with a handful of pine nuts and chopped fresh summer herbs. That's life. That's her life.

Chaz: She forgot. But no one minded. I bet she ate something much more fun.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dulse a leche

"Mmm thanks I love a plate of brown food", I said as Louis presented me with curried baked beans and toast. His eyes brightened: "What it really needs is some brown sauce. " 
I baulked. 

"Do you not like brown sauce?"  "I've never had it. I don't know what it tastes like." 

He offered me some. I closed my eyes shaking my head, "Eurgh no I'm scared". 

"Fran, you were eating raw seaweed straight off the rocks from the beach yesterday".

Good point. I dabbed a little on my fork and grimaced... Not so bad. It just tasted vinegary. Raw seaweed off the rocks tasted better. 

Later, I collected some more seaweed and looked up how to actually cook it. I cut the ends of the wrack one off (the one with bladders) and pan fried them with red onions as a kind of caper to use with spaghetti. The green strandy stuff is apparently nice fried and crispy but my cooking is more enthusiasm than accuracy and I went for a mush style instead. We had the whole lot as a carbonara. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016


It was really wet on the day of some Germany v Italy match and instead of leaving the holiday cottage Louis had been sneezing on the sofa for the last 8 hours.

I came into the cosy fire lit sitting room after washing up the dinner i'd cooked us. 

"Shall we watch the match?" Louis asked smiling. 

"Hmm that does sound like something I want to do. I'm glad that we can spend our last evening on holiday like this. "

After a quick sulk and tears and make up kiss we settled down to watch the match happily. 

The match was ending on penalties. Louis was very tense and wincing. He said breathlessly, "Oooh Aren't penalties just your favourite part of the game??"

"Hmm I'm not sure. I've never watched a match the whole way through to find out what I think of the other bits."

"Don't you find it tense?" 

"I'm just worried for them. They must be so fed up."

"Do you reckon that's the emotion they're experiencing?"

"Yeah. They just want to go and have their post match bath."

A moment later one of the teams missed a penalty and the other won and I presume the poor player was in really hot water! 

They must have felt as battered about as the elderflower I'd picked early and fried in tempura. I liked them so much I had them for two courses- starter and dessert. 

Battered elderflower heads

250 ml fizzy water, 50 g plain flour- mix and sit off the bench for half an hour. Add whisked egg white in. Then dip the heads in, and holding the stalk carefully fry a head one by one in boiling oil in a pan. 

For pudding I added a shake of caster sugar to the batter and did the same. The pudding version was the best. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Don't clove to others

We were in Fort William stocking up on food and camping gear before descending on the West Highland coast and we stopped at a cafe for a sandwich. 

As I waited for the sandwiches to be prepared two people sitting on stools at the shop's glass front started talking about Louis and Greyson whom they could see on the bench outside. 

"I only like dogs bred for function". 

I whipped round from the queue. 

"Yeah big dogs. Labradors or collies." 

"I don't mind cats too. But not a dog that's essentially a cat". 

Well missy, I don't mind embarrassing myself to embarrass others! On collecting my sandwich, I went to get napkins from the pile by their elbows giving them a hard nudge and stare in the process, then I swept out to ostentatiously pet Louis and Greyson in full view whilst loudly recounting the story. 
Greyson HAS a function: being adorable. 

One thing the man in Go Outdoors advised to keep mosquitos like them away was garlic. We bought a few bulbs and as Louis chopped some for our sweet potato curry cooked on our new camping stove I smeared raw cloves all over my face and neck. 

Hmm not sure if it'll keep rude people away or encourage more insults.


Recently, Mum, Louis, Ro and I walked some of the Camino de Santiago. It's a route pilgrims used to walk across Spain all the way to the Cathedral in Santiago.

We entered in France, and before boarding the train in Biarritz we hauled in a picnic of apricot tarte, flans and pain au raisin with a bottle of cidre and paper cups. The train stopped frequently at alpine villages with no platforms punctuating our views of endless green slopes and snowy tips.

The guesthouse was run by a pencil thin pencil lipped henna bobbed French woman In a jade shirt suit, her terrier Elan, and her absolutely normal for 2016 smiling daughter. Glass domes of marshmallows on the counter.

The problem I have is that I seem to be the only true pilgrim on this trail. We are walking everyday but I think it should go further than that with a spartan spread to greet us each evening. The others went totally lux tonight ordering cod omelette and goats cheese salad and any pudding they liked. I meanwhile grovelled to the €12 pilgrim set menu- cod LESS omelette, goats cheese LESS salad. I might as well have worn my set menu apple crumble round my head like thorns whilst they deliberated over creme brûlée or chocolate mousse. As I say, choice is the devil's dessert.

I luckily don't get much choice on this holiday, sartorially at least, as I only brought one outfit and underwear set for five days. I'm two days down now... I'll let you know in a few days whether I've cooked up my own cod omelette.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Eat your greens

I sometimes can't remember whether Greyson is a dog or a child. We seem to have got a bit confused lately as for some reason we've been trying to give him more vegetables. I'm not quite sure why.
It does feel strange as a vegetarian to be feeding him tins of scraps of old dead animals off the cutting room floor but more vegetables with said animal product doesn't make it fully better.

I have been researching about how to make nutritionally complete vegetarian dog food for him but it takes a lot of time and effort. I put in an order for the ingredients but then left them in the car at my Granny's.

Anyway. More vegetables. I wouldn't say they're his favourite yet. Louis added spinach the other day to his bowl and he just ate the tinned food around it.


You've just really got to mix them well so he doesn't notice. I stuck my hands in and massaged some kale  so throughly with tinned chicken that he gobbled up the whole thing.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Easter rising

Mum asked what I thought she should make for Easter this year.
Louis and I distinctly remember her making a pie last year which had whole eggs baked inside.

She didn't remember and seemed to think the recipe I found a lot of effort.

"How many eggs?" "12". "That's a lot!"  "One for each Apostle. Oh and it's got 33 layers of pastry. One for each year of Christ's life." APPARENTLY the symbolism of the different elements in the pie give it as many layers of Easter significance as there are layers of dough in the crust.

Mum doesn't believe in Christ or my instructions it seems as she only used five eggs and one layer of bought puff pastry. And served it with cous cous..

Here's the basic recipe.

Filling : combine cooked diced onion, cooked spinach once you've made a bit less wet, Parmesan ricotta cheese, 3 eggs mixed in to the mixture. 

Put in pot lined with 12 layers pastry. Make little wells for the 12 eggs.

Put pastry lid on and cook.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Haunted house

I have such lovely memories of cooking for the collected friends at Cranston. When Alex and Tom's birthdays came along I thought it was time to fire up the oven again.

I realised when I was baking Alex and Tom's cake that the kitchen in my flat at Kemp house is spookily similar to the Cranston Estate one. Maybe that explains why I still make so many cooking mistakes. I'M HAUNTED.

The wooden spoon suddenly spun out of my control and tipped chocolate batter all over me. Then the ghost did something to my Lindt chocolate so it didn't quite make enough ganache. WELL if I can outwit anyone, it's a ghost of my own imagination. I ground down two penguin bars in the pestle and mortar, and melted a Freddo and an After Eight mint in with them. Mmm. I like a bit of texture to a ganache.

I popped the cakes in the oven and raised an eyebrow at the chocolate splattered gloss laminate work surfaces. I thought I'd quickly wash the large knife with my fingers. And I cut my knuckle. Lucky I'd already packaged the cake up in a tin.

"Noooo" Louis said, "You've put the cake in the tin I was just cooking Greyson's lamb chop in!" Oh. Whoops*. 

*(it was wrapped in baking paper by the way don't worry, no meat or blood in this cake). 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Spice up your life

Louis and I have been doing art class at the Shadwell Ideas store every Tuesday evening with a pre session South Korean restaurant conveniently close.

We've been getting spicier each week and for the first time ever I experienced the sour burn of acid reflux! I quite enjoyed having a new experience - especially after having read so much about it when studying medicine. Hope I don't get it too often and develop squamous cell carcinoma in my oesophagus.

Although I strongly do not believe health professionals should be unhealthy, or as I call them HYPOCRITE PROFESSIONALS, my need for that is being tested right now with the rising trend of kimchi! I've had said acid reflux three times in a row now. The novelty is wearing off... 

Here's a recipe still

Slice and salt a cabbage. Cover it with water for hours then drain. Make a paste of garlic, ginger and sugar and chilli flakes and massage into the cabbage and also some sliced radish and onions. Pack into a jar and keep forever. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Straight laced

When I was doing medicine and could control nothing around me I got a little power mad in a really small domain.

No eating disorders, self harm or OCD for me, I really enjoyed getting other people tying my shoe laces for me.

I remember one exciting week I had three people do it and I planned to add more to my collection. I thought it was going to become my secret thrill like some people have spy holes or midnight binging.

At one point I was discovered. I got Helena to do it for me on the walk into Uni. She told me she knew what I was up to but I stood my ground and kept my hands full of bags and my eyes full of smug pleading.

I learnt from watching other people tie my Tims that the tying shoe laces method seems to be quite individual to people. Unless it's me that's doing it all wrong. Which is quite likely. But if it IS based on personal preference then that's quite similar to ones individual method for applying jam and cream to scones, or how to test when spaghetti is done (ceiling or taste).

Another thing that's quite personal is chilli seasoning. Louis has started going to niche chilli shops and keeping bottles on the table. I didn't used to have any at all but I must have got more advanced under his tutelage because I didn't think anything of the curry he made for us and my Dad not too long ago.

Dad couldn't eat it it was so hot and had to have a specially made scrambled egg on toast! Unless that was a trick and his control domain is making people cook special meals for him....

Monday, 28 March 2016

A breeding ground for trouble

Recently I made pizza for dinner. Working from home that day I could start it in my lunch break and leave it to rise and prove and hang out for about four hours under a tea towel at each stage. I felt like a New York pizza man. 

We had a good meal with potato and Rosemary toppings and a Parmesan and rocket and then I thought nothing more of it. 

That is until I went to put out my latest batch of washing. Bits of my pizza dough had stuck around

How odd. I don't remember Louis getting any dough on his pants. Or on his jumper. Or tee shirts. 

Ohh I realised I'd I flung the tea towel I'd wrapped the raw dough with into the washing machine and there must have been a scrap on which had thrived in the wet and wild of the machine. 

Hmm quite hard to get off. Maybe I'll just have to tell Louis he's got a yeast infection.... 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Post-tato depression

Louis and I are adopting Grayson, an Italian Greyhound and the imminent adoption day has made me feel quite overwhelmed. 

What if I trip over him? What if Sager and Wilde still refuse to let him eat in the restaurant with us? What if he thinks I'm a bad mother?

I was walking along the road yesterday and I thought "if I just walk into this traffic he won't have to be looked after by me." And when I woke up this morning I thought, "if I just snap ALL our thin legs then we can all just stay at home healing together and I don't have to organise a dog walker.."

Luckily Louis soothed me and reminded me that peri natal depression can be quite common in new mothers and now I feel much better.

I was eating leftover scandi potato, dill and cod pie for lunch at work today when I thought "what's Grayson's little leg doing in my mouth?" I felt it out with my tongue. Yes. Long. Thin. Quite hard. I didn't snap it off in my sleep did I? I fished it out. Oh a massive fish bone!  Phew.

It made me remember that looking after him is going to be just as delicious as the meal I was eating leftovers from. 

We had it with mushrooms baked in cream and parmesan, leeks the same, and kale not cooked but wilted with white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and olive oil dressing. 


Monday, 21 March 2016

A grape lot of bother

Sometimes the urge to do something I know I shouldn't is so strong. Like stepping off the tube platform, or dropping my phone down a drain, or posting some dog poo through a letter box.

I texted Louis this and he said replied DO IT. 

Well, well, well, he's not so encouraging usually. Usually he makes me stick to the letter. If he asks me what we're making for dinner so he can buy ingredients, and I approximate and say we just need one thing as I'm sure we can find the rest in the cupboard, he insists on seeing the recipe so he can halt me substituting coriander for parsley, peppers for aubergine, tinned anchovies for smoked salmon. 

Happily he wasn't around when I was making Ottolenghi's grape,cheddar and parsley roasted cauliflower salad. As I was telling him about it later on the phone I said, oh but I didn't have grapes, or cheddar, and I forgot to put the parsley in. 
Apparently the rule is if the ingredient is in the title you have to put it in! 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Clean Cooking

I've got really into tidying recently via Marie Kondo the Japanese folding expert. I've sushi rolled all of my socks, Louis' socks, ro's socks, joey's, mum's, and basically anyone who lets me in their sock drawer. It's very space saving. 

I was at the glass display cabinets in Oliver Bonas with Ro, helping her choose some jewellery. "Which necklace do you think I should get?"
I sighed. "Sorry it's just really hard for me to agree with ANY of this cabinet now. We just don't really do clutter anymore. I'd just sushi roll this whole cabinet into the charity shop."

Louis felt I was making this up entirely. He may have been basing this on my cluttered cooking recently. Why use one ingredient where six would do?

A good example is the Buddha bowl I made for mum when she visited.

It had kale and chilli and ginger and coriander and avocado and peppers and cucumber and grated carrot and chickpeas and brown rice.

It was packed tighter than most of my bags of Louis' old tee shirts i'm planning to throw away.

Concrete Jungle

I sometimes get annoyed by Bear Grylls as he seems a bit of an archaic sexist pig and I'm sure I could do a better job of adventuring than him. It's just that not many opportunities come up. There was the day I had to physically climb two floors to move desk at work. And it was quite good when the shower blocked and I went to the corner shop to buy a plunger and then used it. But nothing where I get to use my full mental and physical capabilities to get out of a sticky sitch.

Then the other day I was walking to a work training session just off Tottenham Court Road and I went to take my ID card out my purse ready. Ever prepared see.  But just then the wind whipped up and plucked out my £100 yoga pass. It flew over high wrought iron railings and down down two mansion block stories below street level.

I was so worried. I couldn't afford to lose that card. And I couldn't possibly climb up over the railings and down.
I rang the door bells of the flats but it was 3pm and no one in.

I think everyone (Bear Grylls I only mean you) should take a minute now to think what they would have done. Let it really sink in how impenetrable the high spiked railings and then two story drop. And how little I cried.

Cool as a cuc I went to my training but didn't take in a word as I was forming a plan. I clearly needed some sort of fishing line. Hmm, there's sometimes men fishing on the canal but not on Tott court road. There's only homewear shops and stationary emporiums. Somehow I didn't think Dwell was going to cut it.

To Cards Galore I went!

Back on the street, ignoring the glances and snickers my expedition was attracting, I unpacked my kit. Sellotape to double side coat the bottom of my lunch box with stickyness. Silver parcel ribbon to lower the bait down.

Cast off! Twenty minutes later I rolled the silver birthday present ribbon back up over the railings with the yoga card stuck to the sellotape covered bottom of my lunch box.


I had missed Monday's Yin session with Amanda but I had my card.