My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

I’m sorry. I disappeared. There’s been quite a bit going on, and I’ve wanted to write this post since xmas, but I mislaid my images. Months later and hours of trawling through Twitter to find my original post with the images on here I am, finally! And not actually a diary, so there’s that too!

The dish I have been dying to post about is biscuits and sausage gravy.

I first came across this dish – well it was just biscuits and gravy – some years ago when I was visiting family in the States and it was ordered by my sister’s boyfriend at the time.

I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to order it myself, because my British inner voice was yelling ‘He’s ordered a scone! And it’s got white sauce on!’ but I was interested. Fast forward a few years and the dish would pop into my head intermittently, so I decided that I wanted to make it around xmas time, which is when I try and create interesting breakfasts and brunches.

Here is where the problems started… It took a while, because most ‘recipes’ on the interwebs start with ‘open the can of biscuits’, which frankly is not a recipe, and I can’t buy biscuits in the UK. Not those biscuits anyway, and I don’t think our biscuits, for example Rich Tea or Custard Creams will do quite the same job.

I could have used a British scone recipe, but I wanted to be as near as possible to the biscuit recipe so I persevered.

Anyway, sometime last year I found a good and proper recipe for biscuits and sausage gravy so I made plans to have all of the ingredients I needed for the festive period. Luckily, I managed to get buttermilk which was the main hurdle, and as for the sausage, it wasn’t going to be American sausage but I live in Cumbria (used to be called Cumberland) so using our fabulous Cumberland sausage was a no brainer.

biscuits and gravy
Biscuits and Cumberland sausage gravy!

Now, I’m not the biggest sausage fan, but Cumberland sausage is delicious. I use it also for sausage rolls, and the stuffing for my turkey during festive period. Proper Cumberland sausage doesn’t come in links, but one length. It’s thicker than most sausages, although one can purchase ‘thin’ from certain butchers. The recipe is usually just pork meat and fat, seasoning, and maybe breadcrumbs but Cumberland sausage is quite dense so maybe not.

So… I followed the recipe for the biscuits as closely as possible, but I swapped out the vegetable shortening for lard as the hydrogenated fats in solid vegetable fat that I can buy here are worse than solid animal fat, and I used rock salt instead of kosher. Everything else was kept the same. I then flattened and cut, then threw them in the oven.

Next I started on the sausage gravy by removing the sausage meat from its skin then fried it off as per the directions, added the onion and cooked that before removing the solid stuff from the pan.

I added a little oil to the pan (I didn’t use butter as I didn’t need much) then put the sausage back in and added flour, stirring. It became very claggy as effectively what I was doing was starting a roux with added sausage. I cooked that off for a while before adding the seasoning and then the milk a little at a time. I didn’t measure the milk; I added it in stages until it was the right consistency by eye. I like my sauces thick. The aroma at this stage was amazing as Cumberland sausage always smells wonderful, but had just been elevated.

Now I must admit it was a bit of a slog for brunch because at that point in the festive period I am in ‘hardly any cooking’ mode, but it would be easy to prepare a most of it ahead, after all – I followed this recipe when there were only two of us so we had leftovers for days! And Days! And I froze some.

Can I just say, you probably shouldn’t biscuits and gravy every day, but it was absolutely a-mazing, and it will be a yearly thing for us from now on. I split the scones – sorry, biscuits – horizontally in half as per the recipe pic, and we spooned on the gravy that was still in the pan in which it was cooked in the middle of the table.

Brits… If you haven’t tried this you should!

My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

Whisky Tango Foxtrot!*

If you’ve landed here for a review of the film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the 2016 film, I’m sorry you’re out of luck (note the different – Scottish – spelling of whisky, in a bid to distance this post from the film)

No. Although it could be likened to a film, perhaps a disaster movie, even perhaps in the genre of apocalyptic, this is about the real life nightmare that is Drumpf.

I’m not going to use his real name; I don’t respect him enough for that, so I’m using his apparent family name, as it was when they arrived in the U.S as immigrants. Oh the irony.

Anyway, the reason for the title is because I, and probably a few others, at least once a day are exclaiming “WTF?!?!”

And I’m not going to talk about the vileness he spewed on the run up to the election, his lies, his calling people names which is frankly just rude, or that he couldn’t debate if his very bad hair was on fire. okay… I talked about it a little…

And I’m not here to talk about the fact that he ‘won’ the election, well – the Electoral College at least. He didn’t win the popular vote which is very fitting.

No. I’m here to say “WTF?!?!” to the U.S government and its handling of the tiny handed orange man child since the election.

I thought that ALL presidential candidates were pushed to release information, ya know… things like tax returns. It may not be law, but it appears to be protocol. Why isn’t Drumpf being held to account?

I have heard that there are allegedly many lawsuits against the person that is now president. Why isn’t he being held to account?

I have heard that he is allegedly hawking his wares. Ya know… of the businesses he is supposed to no longer be attached to? Allegedly pushing foreign diplomats to stay at his hotels? Why isn’t the REST OF GOVERNMENT stopping this? There IS a conflict of interests, and you SHOULD BE doing something. If nothing else, this is going to be the grubbiest presidency of all time. You are allowing a ‘For Sale’ sign to hang over the U.S.

I have heard that he is still using an unsecured mobile phone (probably because the secure phone is larger and he would struggle, with his tiny hands) when others have not been allowed to. Why isn’t Drumpf being made to do as his better predecessors have done?

U.S departments are being censored. Why isn’t Drumpf being held to account?

Look, I know the Republicans will just be happy to have your person in power, but are you really so weak and sycophantic that you will let him ride roughshod over the sanctity of the institution that is supposed to SERVE THE PEOPLE??

Make him wave when he reaches the top of air force one, make him turn in his phone, and while you’re at it STOP HIM TWEETING, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SANE!!

Make him treat departments with respect, respect for the knowledge that they so clearly have and that he so clearly doesn’t.

Commit to transparency. It’s been a week, and we could be hearing about North Korea when we hear of media blackouts, censorship, and propaganda.

In short, remember the tag line of an old Pirelli Advert…

Power is nothing without control.

And your supreme leader is out of control.

 

 

*I know I don’t live in the U.S, but a lot of people I love do, and what Drumpf is allowed to get away with for the next four years may well affect the rest of the world, so I’m having my say. Well, a little… I could go on for hours.

 

Whisky Tango Foxtrot!*

My Mad Weekly Kitchen Diary

Okay… I’m not the biggest fan of macaroni cheese, because I’m not that keen on pasta, but occasionally I bite the bullet and make it because it fits with that week’s menu. I like to balance my week’s food as far as possible so that will include some sort of pasta.

Anyway… This was one of those days, and this day I also happened to be craving a dish my foster mum used to make which was white fish in cheese sauce, with potatoes and peas. This day, I had to use pasta though (booooo!), so I pushed my craving down and tried to come up with a pasta dish. The thought of fish and cheese sauce constantly tried to reach the surface, and ultimately gave me the idea of ‘Seafood macaroni cheese’!

I had basa fillets in the freezer along with prawns. I also had mussel meat in said freezer but didn’t think mussel meat would look very pretty.

I tend not to follow a recipe when I make a roux, I just use equal parts of butter or some such* and plain flour, then add my milk a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency I want. But as a guide, 1 heaped dessert spoon of flour/butter makes about 500ml (a pint ish) of sauce.

In this instance though, I poached the basa in milk, then used that milk to make the sauce before adding grated mature cheddar until the sauce was very cheesy. When the sauce was complete I added the defrosted cooked, peeled prawns and warmed them through before adding the basa and cooked macaroni. Once I’d piled it all into a baking dish I sprinkled panko breadcrumbs mixed with a little parmesan over the top and shoved it under the grill to brown. I didn’t want the seafood to overcook by baking.

The resulting Seafood mac and cheese was delicious, and it definitely upped my enjoyment rate!

Seafood macaroni cheese
Seafood macaroni cheese

*Sometimes I use sunflower oil instead of butter because I’m melting it anyway.

My Mad Weekly Kitchen Diary

A methi in my madness?

Some occurrences are just weird, and this rambling perhaps will highlight that, or may highlight that I’m seeing something in nothing…

My father died some years ago, at least nine years. You may think it’s odd that I don’t know down to the minute the time of his demise, but we were estranged, I hadn’t had contact with him for many years before I found out he’d died.

A kind friend of his gave me a few personal effects, cookery books and the like, for which I was very grateful as the few good memories I have of my father are food related, he was a fantastic cook, of many ethnic styles. Amongst the personal effects was an old exercise book in which he had written many recipes; there was even a recipe written in my probably twelve years old handwriting that he must have dictated as he tested and cooked a dish.

The Exercise Book
The Exercise Book

So… In the years since I’ve had the book I’ve read it from cover to cover, and looked at each piece of paper he tore from magazines and stowed amongst the pages. One of my hobbies is reading cookery books (then not following the recipe), and as such I’ve read my father’s book many times. In fact, I look at it so often I keep it on top of a pile of books on the coffee table shelf.

The pile of books!
The pile of books!

So here’s the weird bit… two Sundays ago I was building a new TV unit in a bid to stop the kitten from strangling herself amongst the wires that the old open TV unit did nothing to hide, but on my own it was difficult to keep the unit straight, so I had the brainwave to prop some of the unit on books. I was kneeling by the coffee table so I was able to grab from my pile of mahoosive cookery books to create a level. The exercise book, being the smallest was not needed so I pulled it from the top of the pile and placed it on the table top. I then used the three cookery books on the pile to bolster the unit whilst I put in the locking cams.

I happily worked away for some time building the unit, then just happened to glance at the last book that would usually be the bottom of the pile, and noticed a lone piece of paper on top of said book with my father’s handwriting on. I reached for the paper and scanned it, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up…

The lone piece of paper!
The lone piece of paper!

You see, my favourite Indian curry is ‘Methi’, which is a rich dark sauce made with fenugreek leaves. It’s difficult to get in a takeaway; it’s not that usual in Indian restaurants, so of late I’ve been trying to recreate it myself from a solitary recipe I found online, again recipes are few and far between.

My father's recipe, previously unseen!
My father’s recipe, previously unseen!

I can honestly say I have never seen that recipe of my dad’s before, and my love of Methi based curry was nothing to do with my dad, so I didn’t realise he had ever made it, and in all of the times I pored over that book I didn’t see that slip of paper, I would go as far as to say it wasn’t there, and it wasn’t sitting on that book either. It’s like it was put there so I would notice!

 

 

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A methi in my madness?

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen.

If ever I talk about a dish that you want more info on, let me know and I’ll do my best to elaborate!

So… after an enforced break because I had to do the year end paperwork for the business I’m just pulling some meals I cooked from the last few weeks, hopefully the more interesting ones!

Larger image below
Larger image below

 

Any day

I have always wanted to make my own paella. I’ve been to Spain a lot, but only eaten proper paella once at a party. It’s difficult to order at a restaurant because you have to order in advance, and it’s for more than one person, but husb never fancied it. I dream of that one time I ate it as I love rice dishes! Anyway… I haven’t got a proper paella pan but I decided to ignore that point and use my super duper pan with ears (two teeny curved handles) instead.

I don’t know what I was searching for this day, whether I was looking at pans, or searching for a recipe, but I came across a paella pan site that had a really interesting recipe with very good instructions so I made plans to make it.

Firstly I blackened my own red peppers under the grill; then put them in a plastic food bag to steam for a while then peeled the charred skin off with my fingers when I could handle it. Some people rinse the pepper under the tap, but that must wash away a lot of flavour.

The recipe is long, so I won’t go into all of the detail because you can see it above, but I’ll mention any important stuff, first of which is… at the time I didn’t have paella rice… so I used carnarolli (risotto) rice.

I also paid particular attention to the ‘sofrito’ which, in all my years of hunting down paella recipes, has been missing, and I think is the key. I used thigh meat, which has much more flavour, and I resisted the urge to stir the paella when instructed not to when creating the ‘socarrat’ (not a rodent that plays football, it’s a crust that forms on the bottom), it felt like a long time, and I didn’t use foil because my pan has a lid.

The finished result was excellent, and I credit the detailed recipe instructions. I’m dying to cook the recipe again, and now I have paella rice too!

 

Someday

C wanted a pie on a Friday, and I like to do a curry on a Friday, so I thought I would make a lamb keema pie, a proper pie with a top and a bottom in a bid to accommodate the two thoughts. I made the keema using my special spice mix, and made sure I split the oil at each stage then when ready I cooled it; then filled the lined pie dish, adding a lid when it was full. When it was time I just shoved it in the oven for about forty minutes. I served it which Bombay mashed potatoes, and mushroom pea curry.

The pie was very tasty, but it was too dense, it was absolutely packed full of the keema, I needed to make more of a gravy, next time he can just have his English pie!

 

One day

Last week at some point I made Cumberland sausage toad in the hole. Now… don’t believe everything you read about toad in the hole, there’s not bread or fried eggs involved. Toad in the hole is sausages in batter!

Most people will buy bog standard sausages for this dish, but we believe it deserves award winning Cumberland sausage, so that’s what we used. If you’re unfamiliar with authentic Cumberland sausage, it doesn’t come in links, it’s just one long sausage that the butcher will weigh, cut, and then coil so we don’t need a really long bag and a lorry to get it home!

Anyway… I used a 5, 5, 8 ratio to make the batter. This was new to me and mixes metric and imperial. So (I think) it was 5 eggs, 500g flour and 8floz milk. She mixed metric and imperial so it would be easy to remember, but I can’t remember if the 8 is milk or flour, so that worked, didn’t it! Anyway… I made the batter beforehand, and added a little grain mustard for a bit of zing. Nearer the time I cut the sausage into large pieces, put them in a baking dish with a little sunflower oil, and roasted them for about fifteen minutes until the top of the sausages were starting to brown and the dish was very hot. I then whipped it out of the oven and poured in the batter as quickly as possible before shoving it back in the oven. It took about half an hour to cook, and was well risen and golden when I pulled it out.

I served the toad in the hole with vegetables and onion gravy. The batter was quite heavy, next time I’ll replace some of the milk in the batter with water, if I follow the 5,5,8 again.

Chicken, choizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.
Chicken, chorizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.

 

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Trading humility for arrogance…

Liam Fox… Liam Fox…

Liam Fox called business leaders ‘Fat and lazy’, and stated that they ‘should do more work instead of playing golf on a Friday afternoon’. Some would think it fair enough that he’s made these remarks, he’s entitled to his own opinion, right? And usually I would agree with his right to make the comments even if I disagree with the sentiment. But do I agree in this instance? No, I flipping well don’t, because he’s the British Trade Secretary.

You know… the person whose job it is to WAVE THE FLAG FOR BRITISH BUSINESSES AT THE REST OF THE WORLD! And this coming from a man that if my research is correct, may never have worked in the private sector. He doesn’t know what it’s like to take a leap and start up a business, he had (and still does have) the safety of a wage paid by the tax payer. He’s never had to worry that the business that’s responsible for the livelihood of others might fail, so how dare he be so blasé.

If you drill down, private business brings in the majority, if not all – of the money that the government wastes spends and he would do well to remember that.

And If the firms he’s talking of are private firms, what the hell is it to do with him whether they ARE fat and lazy, or play golf on a Friday afternoon? I’ll tell you what it has to do with him, absolutely nothing. They can do what they want with their money/business as long as it’s legal. But to put LF’s mind at rest, I am almost certain that if any business leaders of private firms aren’t performing, they won’t be there for long, because unlike the public sector, the proper* private sector doesn’t usually reward failure.

Of course the line gets smudged when private business is too big to fail and gets bailed out by us, the taxpayer; an example being the Royal Bank of Scotland. And also the ‘private’ firms that aren’t really private like the postal and rail service. With these ‘businesses’ the line gets smudged between success and failure, meaning they rake it in during the good times, then come asking for public money when the bad times hit, or when they ‘need to improve infrastructure’. It’s a win-win really.

So I would be happy if LF insists that the bosses at RBS constantly have their noses to the grindstone 24/7, because I paid for them to survive. And whilst he’s at it he should turn his head away from the private sector and take a look at NHS bosses, and even consultants, all of whom are paid for, and very generously by the public due to the payment scale bought in by Blair of ‘pay the public sector bosses private sector wages to draw them in’. It used to be that you would take the pay cut to get the good pension when working in the public sector, but now they have both, and I know for a fact that some get the time to play golf on a Friday afternoon.

LF also needs to do an about turn and look closer to home, the MPs…

After all, a simple look in the mirror would reveal an MP that allegedly incorrectly claimed £22k in expenses!

Before I became self employed I was employed, and I couldn’t claim expenses for anything, my lunch wasn’t subsidised, or my dinner, or my wine and champagne had I wanted it. So LF, I would urge you to be a little more humble and a little less arrogant when referring to the people that PAY YOUR WAGES!!!

Now, I’m not coming at this as a big business leader, far from it. We have a small business you see, and it is north of the Watford gap. So we get no recognition from this London-centric, Big business-centric government. Yup. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that our teeny business and the other MILLIONS of small business owners that pay their tax and prop up the country, often earning less than their employees, and never having days off, are the forgotten. But even we forgotten millions see how wrong it was for LF to make these comments, because he’s supposed to be on their side.

 

*Not big banking – that’s an anomaly

Trading humility for arrogance…

My love/hate relationship with perfume

Did I ever say how much I love perfume? No? Well… I LOVE PERFUME!!

I’ll tell you how much I love perfume… I work from home; mostly the only humans I see are my husband, the postie, & delivery people. Yet, every morning after I’ve showered, moisturised, and dressed I use one of my many perfumes, not for anyone else – because let’s face it, my sometimes expensive, (sometimes not so) perfumes are wasted on the delivery person – just me, and maybe my husband… 😉

So now you know all that let me reveal another nugget…

I hate perfume advertisements, I mean… REALLY hate them! And I hate them to such an extent that I have a list of the worst offending brands that are on my ‘no buy list’ due to what I consider a rubbish advert.

Who are the adverts for, anyway? Is it for the end user? ie. Me?

If these adverts are for my benefit all I’ll say is… you don’t have to… no really. Don’t!

I know for sure I don’t want to see a close up of Keira Knightley’s beige clad arse as she straddles a motorbike, which is surely a metaphor I don’t even want to think too hard about, and I don’t know what’s worse; the close up of the arse or that the arse is beige clad.

Then there’s the woman waking up in the middle of the night to run through town solo – naughty! Don’t go out on your own after dark* – just to retrieve your bottle of perfume is very careless, and beyond silly. If you need the perfume that badly keep some in your bedroom.

Then there’s the woman writhing around on what looks like a very grubby floor clutching the perfume bottle to her mouth. Far from giving the impression of ‘Decadence’ as the ad would have you believe, it instead looks like she was taken hostage. Hostage or not you would think they could give her a chair to sit on and something to eat.

And finally there’s the very talented Charlize Theron being hauled up to the ceiling on a length of gold fabric, or the equally talented Julia Roberts in ‘chains’. Hmmph. I would be impressed with the former if she carried a feather duster up there… And as for the latter, where’s the kitchen sink?!

With these few examples, I conclude that the ads aren’t actually aimed at me; they are perhaps, and stereotypically aimed at my husband, which is where I get even more annoyed. My husband I think, has bought me three bottles of perfume (ever) because I like to buy my own, I don’t need or even want him to buy it. It’s nice if he does, but he doesn’t need to.

You see, it might just be me, but I find these ads so unintelligent, the makers give us little credit. Do they really think we’re swayed by their unassailable, unrealistic stories? Do they think we are mesmerised by the sight of Keira Knightley’s arse, or Charlize’s ribbon? Or Keira and Charlize themselves?

Or is the ad giving us an idea of how the perfume smells? Because all I see in these ads is the aforementioned, so I really don’t want to think about arse, grubby rooms, or chains when imagining a perfume!

What I would love to see in an ad are normal women in normal situations.

Maybe she sprays her favourite fragrance after a long day at work and is instantly lifted as she snuggles into her favourite bath robe. I could see this in an ad!

Maybe she sprays her perfume after a long shower during which her partner looked after the baby, allowing her a brief period of alone time and the opportunity to get rid of the smell of baby sick. I can picture the advert now!

Or maybe they could shoot the story of the backpacker, who after a hot, dusty day trekking through Australia, takes a tiny atomiser from a pocket in her rucksack, allowing herself the luxury of the one spray per week. Carrying a rucksack means bare essentials only, but that teeny atomiser was invaluable (true story). Nicole Kidman could be in that one, think Australia the film!

Yeah, I know these scenarios aren’t that exciting, but that’s sort of the point. These faboo advert creators can make it work, and I hope they do… because my banned list gets longer by the week, and a few of my favourite perfumes ‘aarrrrgh’ from brands now on the banned list!

*This applies to all humans, not just women. Use the buddy system!

My love/hate relationship with perfume