Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Holy smoke

Apologies for the slightly random and rambling nature of the posts at the moment - I'm just trying to get back into the physical habit of blogging.

Anyway, we had a really quite exciting moment in our kitchen on Saturday evening when we tea smoked some mackerel.*

It is made still more exciting by the fact that these were mackerel that we ourselves caught off the coast of Tobermory in the summer.

Mackerel, just out of the sea.  Sorry guys!
The last few had been languishing in our freezer (seriously, the bloody thing is bottomless.  If we ventured far enough in we would probably find the Holy Grail.)  Having been frozen for so long the texture of the fish was likely to be rather compromised, so we decided that smoking and then blitzing them into pate was a fitting send off.

It turns out that smoking food inside is surprisingly easy.  You need a sturdy pot with a big surface area, some tea leaves and some foil and that is it!  Line the pot with foil, spread out the tea leaves and then take another piece of foil, pierced all over, and lay it on top.  Then add your fish, like so:

Prepare to smoke!
Top with a lid, turn the heat on and leave for...well, I think it took about forty five minutes all in all for ours, but we went back and prodded them at regular intervals to check that all was well and nothing was on fire.

And voila!  Smoked mackerel!  D slipped the flesh from the bones and then we blitzed it with cream cheese, chives, lemon, horseradish and a hefty dose of salt and pepper - this needed quite a lot of seasoning to wake it up.

There is no way to make pate look pretty,,,,
More by luck than judgement, we managed to achieve a gratifyingly delicate smoke flavour that didn't overpower the fish itself,  I was also pleasantly surprised at the relative ease of the process and would definitely give it another go - home smoked salmon anyone?  D and I have both said that we want 2015 to be a year where we attempt some new kitchen projects and this was an excellent place to start.

*(I have just read back that sentence and realised how very tragic it sounds - Saturday night, party night, and we're at home smoking fish.  In our pyjamas.  Is cooking still the new rock and roll?  If not, there is no hope for us.)

Monday, 26 January 2015

MPM: 26th January 2015

It's that time of the week again when we cast our minds over what we hope to be scoffing and quaffing in the coming days.  Hurrah!  It's a quiet week for us - January, in general has been a sleepy, torpid kind of month, but since I'm a sleepy, torpid kind of person you won't find me complaining.

This week is a wee bit meat heavy - I must make an effort to bring more veggie based meals into the rotation.  The excuse, as ever, is that we are continuing to freezer dive and you will be pleased to hear that we are actually reaching a point now where defrosting the bugger is becoming a possibility.

Meal plan:

Haggis with neeps, tatties and onion gravy (we were supposed to have this last night to celebrate Burns' night but it got bumped)
Oxtail with rioja and chorizo
Spaghetti carbonara
Soup night
Fish and chips (at D's plaintive request)
Chilli con carne
A Sunday roast of some sort

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Our Christmas was pretty quiet which, after a trying end to the year, was exactly required.  There were several days where I didn't make it out of my pyjamas.  Unrivalled sloth, that's me.  My birthday falls on the 28th December and, as I said to D, you couldn't have designed a more perfect day if you'd tried - I got up late, had my favourite breakfast washed down with stiff mimosas, then went for a nap (drinking in the daytime makes me sleepy), then watched a couple of films, then ate my favourite dinner, then went to bed.  Not for nothing is my nickname based on Enid Blyton's Sleepy Sloo.

As ever, a big part of the celebrations was the food and we had some unparalleled successes this year, including a sublime Christmas pudding ice cream on the day itself, and a majestic rib of beef at my parents' house on New Year's Eve.  But some of the very nicest things were those meals that were thrown together from the leftovers.

I'm considering buying a turkey breast joint soon just so that D can make another turkey curry.  This was a thing of serious beauty: the meat simmered alongside cubes of potatoes in coconut milk, a splash of cream and mild spices.  We ate little else for two days running.

Traditional Boxing Day sandwiches were a highlight:

Turkey, gammon, sausage meat, strong Cheddar, lettuce, cucumber and a generous swipe of mayo.  We didn't even have turkey on Christmas Day - we just cooked one so I could construct this beast of a thing.  Excuse the photo by the way - bad even by the standards of this blog - this was taken quickly just so I could send it to my Mum.  Who immediately responded with "Wow, that is a sandwich".

Speaking (sort of) of gammon, one lunchtime D constructed little ham hash cakes, fried until crispy and topped with a perfectly poached egg:

A perfect brunch dish.

And as a final hurrah, a couple of weeks ago we used the last of our Christmas cheese to make a tartiflette, that classic apres-ski dish.  If you haven't, y'know, actually been skiing this is almost (almost!) too rich, but with a hefty spoonful of sauerkraut on the side we powered through and D has already requested a repeat performance.  This Hairy Bikers' recipe is a close approximation of the one I used - highly recommended, but go for a good long walk beforehand.  And, possibly, afterwards.

Friday, 23 January 2015

An apology

Dearest, dearest readers of the blog.

I'm sorry that it has been a sad, neglected little thing lately.

I don't see any point in making excuses.  Although I could use the word my beloved sometimes uses and blame it on the ennui.  January seems a good month for ennui.  It is supposed to be the month in which we get going with all of our resolutions and new goals and new challenges.  And, for me, it always feels like a month to hide away.  I don't want to do new things.  I want to sleep and drink tea and wish for brighter weather.

But I am going to make a concerted effort to change.  I love this little blog.  It is a corner of the internet that I can call my own and I love the people who have stopped by here and made it such a convivial place to be.  I will therefore try and post more regularly, even if I don't feel like I have much to say.  The nice thing about blogs is that they are so entirely personal that you can be upfront and talk about things like the fact that January is horrible and crap, and that you miss sunshine and that you love your cat and that you are having trouble getting your 2015 weight loss campaign up and running and you know that there are people out there who will support you.

I have also been told that I am not allowed to just post pictures of Minx and let that count as communication.  Fairy nuff. But, I ask you, if you had this little sweetie on your knee while you overdosed on Netflix, would you be inclined to move her?

No, exactly.

Monday, 12 January 2015

MPM: 12th January 2015

I feel more than a little bit like some sort of woodland creature who has been hibernating for the winter and is only now beginning to stick its nose out of its hole and emerge, blinking, into the light.  Although the weather here in Leeds has been so ropey that it is more akin to blinking into the gloom and drizzle.

What better way to tentatively dip my toe back into the whirlpool that is blogging than a meal planning post?  Hopefully to be followed soon by a few quick Christmas catch ups and a look to the year ahead - I'm not promising anything, mind, because there is still tea to be drunk, a blanket to be snuggled under and episodes of "The Good Wife" to mindlessly binge on (damn you, Netflix).

This week (I'm away Saturday and Sunday, so only five meals to plan...)

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs
Chicken, mushroom and spinach Madras curry
Reuben sandwiches
Chinese braised pork and plums with noodles

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Have a merry, Minxy Christmas

All best wishes to all the lovely people who have stopped by this blog over the past year.

With lots of love from Seren, D and Minx

Now, what to write next year.....?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Recipe corner: super quick cucumber pickle

I hesitate to call this a recipe.  More of an extended tip.  But it is absolutely perfect for this time of year when, if you are anything like us, you will have a fridge groaning with cold cuts and cheeses.  It is a wonderfully simple, sweet-sour foil to anything from leftover turkey to gammon to wodges of Cheddar.  And, unlike most chutneys, it is quick to make.  Just allow about an hour for the salting and, if possible, a half hour at room temperature for the cucumbers to soak up some of the liquor.


1 cucumber
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp dill*
Salt and pepper

Serves 4, 1 pro point per portion

*I always tend to use dried dill because the real thing is so delicate that is doesn't last. Considering its delicacy, the dried stuff is really pretty good and provides excellent flavour.  I wouldn't be without it in my store cupboard.

Using a potato peeler, or an appropriate attachment on a food processor, reduce your cucumber to fat ribbons (rather than slices or shreds).  Peel down until the seeds just about start peeping through - the seeds themselves can be discarded.

Place the ribbons in a colander and sprinkle over several hefty pieces of good salt.  Toss well/  Then, cover the ribbons with kitchen paper and weight down with a bowl or plate and a couple of tins.  Leave for about an hour so the salt can draw the water out.  Meanwhile, you can whisk together the vinegar, sugar, dill and a couple of grinds of pepper.

When the cucumber is ready, rinse off the salt and then wring it out as thoroughly as you can - I tend to do it in small fistfuls, transferring it to the vinegar once it is, er, wrung.  Then, stir through and, if you have time, leave it to sit for a while to absorb the dressing.

That's it!  C'est tout!  You could try varying the herbs, perhaps adding a pinch of dried chilli flakes for background heat, and you may wish to alter the ratio of vinegar to sugar to suit your own tastes.

Let the Christmas feasting commence!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Hibernation and a tremendous steak sandwich

When a blogger goes quiet for a while it is traditional to start the next post with an apology.  Since I doubt very much that the dearth of ramblings in this little corner of the internet has impacted anyone adversely I am sure that my beloved band of readers will forgive me and allow us all to move on.

So, nearly Christmas: how on earth did that happen?  For me, the majority of presents are wrapped, the lights are up in the living room, giving it a pleasingly grotto-esque feel, but we haven't yet started prep for the lunch we are cooking on Christmas Day.  We'll be getting on to that tomorrow.  How about you?

If you're looking for something a little different but incredibly indulgent to nibble - perhaps on those grey old days between Christmas and New Year, then I have a lovely recipe to commend to your attention.

Basically, you hollow out a loaf of bread, fill it with layers of seared steak and a garlicky mushroom duxelle, smear the lid with mustard before replacing and then press it for a good few hours.  The result is a kind of cross between a beef Wellington and a steak sandwich.  Fabulous.

More precise instructions to be found here.  You're welcome - and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Temporary abeyance

It's not going to come as any great surprise to any readers of this little blog that the author is currently struggling with the whole weight loss thang.  In fact, 2014 will not be going down in the annals as a year in which great strides were made.  My tracker tells me that I have lost one stone and 6 lbs in total since January.  I'm sure that I could work out the average weekly loss based on that but it would be far too depressing.

Or would it?  OK, I'm not where I wanted to be.  But I am ending the year lighter than I started it - that's good and I'm going to give myself credit for it.  And if I can do the same next year then that will be good too and I'll be closer to goal.  OK, I'd like to be at goal but let's talk baby steps if they're all that I can manage.

There's still time between now and the 1st January to do some good but I'm going to be realistic about it - that's unlikely to happen.  I have an exam coming up in the next couple of weeks which is currently absorbing a lot of my mental energy.  Once that is over, I have work deadlines that I need to manage before I take leave for Christmas which will potentially mean a tough couple of weeks.  There are Christmas parties and festivities forthcoming.  Throwing point counting into the mix is, I think, just one step too far and there's no point setting myself up for failure.

So, here's the plan for the next few weeks.  I'm going to continue to keep a food diary to make myself accountable as to what I'm eating.  I am going to try and eat sensibly, stick to WW portion sizes, plenty of fruit and veg and basically just fuel myself adequately and well.  I will also continue to weigh daily so that I can try and make adjustments if the numbers start to creep up.  But hopefully I can just manage to keep them stable for the time being and then, once January rolls around, it will be back to meetings and a renewed push.

There will be those that say that I am copping out to which I reply, why yes I am.  But knowing when you need to press pause, and doing it in a considered way, is a life skill in itself.  Honest.

Monday, 24 November 2014

MPM: 24th November 2014

Epic fail on the meal planning front last week.  We had the seabass dish, as planned on the Monday, and it then kind of degenerated.  Next week WILL be better.  Actually, starting from today will be better (it is Sunday as I write this) and the plan is to have a lovely roast shoulder of lamb for dinner which will give plenty of leftovers for the coming week.

The pork and plums dish got bumped again but is now scheduled for tonight and nothing save unanticipated natural disaster will prevent us from eating it, goddamit.

Other than that we have:

Warm lamb salad with caramellised onions and houmous dressing
Macaroni cheese
Mussels with cider and bacon
Burmese chicken soup (thank you, Mr Waitrose)
A good old fashioned, stick to your ribs lasagne

That may be subject to a bit of change and tweaking but we'll see how we go.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.