Monday, 25 June 2012

Call that a meal plan?

Well, I'm back off to Lincoln this week which means my meal plan (Mon-Thurs) consists of school
dinners and D's goes something like - baked beans, bacon, homemade chilli and soup. In no particular order. I know, it makes you want to drive straight round, doesn't it? The homemade chilli is very nice, honest injun...

The weekend should pick up a bit. For my triumphal homecoming dinner, D is planning to cook the peppered tofu recipe from Ottolenghi's "Plenty" which has been on his to do list for a while. I'm looking forward to it already.

It gets a bit vague after that but I'm sure we'll come up with something. For something more akin to, y'know, a plan pop over to Mrs M's.

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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Classic recipe corner - Banana bread

One of the nice things about having a food blog is the fact you can preserve recipes for future generations. And as soon as I manage to hustle a member of said future generation into the kitchen, this is what I will teach them to make.

A loaf of banana bread - here posing coyly in front of the Kitchen Aid. It is not a pretty thing, nor glamourous, but it is simple and delicious and makes the home smell of all good things, which is just what baking should be.

I first baked banana bread when living with D at his request - it was not a recipe that had featured in my mother's baking repertoire as far as I recall. I had to borrow a loaf tin from his mother to make it. I never got round to giving it back to her. Now, whenever I it, I use Mary's tin and it reminds me, a little, of her.

The following top tip is all my own however. I always freeze bananas when they start to turn until I have enough to do something with them. Before incorporating them into the cake batter I microwave them, from frozen, for five minutes. The resulting banana purée can be squeezed out of the skins and requires no mashing. It makes life marginally easier...


225g self raising flour
Tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
100g caster sugar
100g butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp runny honey
100g sultanas
55g chopped walnuts
3 medium-large bananas, peeled and matched or reduced to sludge in the microwave (see above)
2 eggs
Juice of a lemon

Makes 1 loaf, 78 pro points for the whole

Preheat the oven to 180. Lightly spray a loaf tin with Fry Light to prevent the cake from sticking and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.

Sift the flour into a bowl (if you have a mixer use the bowl of that) and add the cinnamon, salt and sugar.

Mix in the butter (with spoon, fingers or mixer) until the mixture resembles damp sand. Then add the other ingredients and beat well into a loose batter.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cover with foil, then turn the heat down to 170 and bake for a further 15-30 mins until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

I eat French food in Lincoln

My Mum (hello, Mum!) emailed me the other day and told me off for neglecting both my blog and my diet healthy eating plan. And she was quite right and I am duly chastened, but in my defence I am in the wilds of Lincolnshire this week delivering a training course with limited access to t’internet and little control over meals. This blog entry comes courtesy of the fact that I have been able to leave the class in other hands this afternoon and find a quiet corner to do some work. It is lovely actually, a nice, quiet office with a view over green fields.

I am not going to bore you with whingeing about how hard it is to diet (sorry, I hate that word, but it is impossible to make a verb out of healthy eating plan) when you are busy and away a lot and stressed out over new jobs and new homes in new cities. You’ve heard it all before and you’ll just roll your eyes and perhaps think that if I really wanted it I wouldn’t rely on a string of rather lame excuses.

Instead (says she, moving swiftly on), I just popped in to tell you about a lovely meal I had the other night. Usually when we come to Lincoln we stay in a residential training centre, but this time we’ve had to stay in the city itself and travel in. It’s been nice, actually. Lincoln is a very pretty city. I didn’t hold out high hopes for finding a decent eatery which would be priced to fit the modest civil service budget and had resigned myself to a few days of Pizza Express et al. But an Internet search turned at trumps when we came across No 14 bistro.


No 14 is a French bistro that serves the kind of dishes that you expect to see in a French bistro. It perhaps means that the menu would look a tad dated were it plonked down in the middle of Paris but who would be so churlish as to care about that? I had snails in garlic and parsley butter, which were beautifully cooked and hummed with just the right amount of garlic, followed by a lovely Provencal vegetable tart with goats’ cheese mousse.


The beef bourguignon across the table, served with a wedge of dauphinoise potatoes smelled heavenly. And (Mum, cover your eyes) I couldn’t resist the chocolate and praline mousse which was as decadent as it sounds with the crunchy praline layered throughout to add texture and interest to the densely, darkly rich chocolate. These dishes were all chosen from the set course menu and came to a mere £12.50. Yes, £12.50. It was stupendously good value. If you went for the a la carte menu it would have worked out as slightly more expensive but still reasonable. I wholeheartedly recommend the place, an unexpected delight in an unexpectedly delightful city.

Right, duty calls so I must love you and leave you for now. Please bear with the sporadic posting. I promise that I am still here and trying to stay on top of reading and commenting and that usual service will be resumed at some point in the near future. As, I’m sure, will the downwards trend of the scales.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Meal Planning Monday – 11th June 2012

This blog has been a little quiet of late and it’s not likely to get any noisier for a while either – up until the middle of August when I finish my current job I have a silly amount of things to do and will be away from home for vast swathes (exaggeration for pathetic effect) of time.

I’m treading water on the diet front: not gaining but not losing and feeling rather apathetic about the whole business. Bah, this probably needs another navel gazing post at some point.

On the cooking side of things, I’ve also been less than sterling recently. We had Birds Eye Southern Fried chicken fillets in buns for tea on Saturday night. Actually, they were very nice, but it’s hardly haute cuisine is it? Anyway, I’m only away for one day this week so there is no excuse for not meal planning and definitely no excuse for not actually getting off my behind to cook. So, in roughly this order…

  • Pan fried salmon fillets with new potatoes and minted peas
  • Chicken thighs with a creamy, mustardy broad bean sauce and mashed potatoes
  • Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toasted bagels
  • Sea bass with braised fennel
  • Curried lamb shanks with pilau rice
  • Roast chicken with all the trimmings

The leftover roast chicken will provide D with the basis for a couple of meals next week when I’m away, and I also intend to make up a big bowl of chilli for him at the weekend. He has also requested a loaf or two of banana bread using up some of the bananas that lurk within the deepest recesses of the freezer so that will at least gve my beloved Kitchenaid a work out.

As always, head over to Mrs M's for more meal planning fun.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Notes on a Jubilee weekend

How was it for you? The sunshine may have been a tad sporadic but still, the long weekend passed very pleasantly indeed.

I spent most of it with my family. My brother (D2), sister in law (V) and fifteen month old nephew (little D) were up and it was lovely to be able to spend time with them. Little D is beginning to develop his own personality which is fascinating to watch. He already demonstrates a good streak of the family stubbornness along with the most charming of smiles.

We took him to Whitby yesterday - all English bank holidays should include a trip to the seaside.

It was very pleasingly traditional - a cold beach peopled with enthusiastic children and their blue lipped parents, a careworn trail of donkeys, the smell of chip fat and candy floss and saltwater. Little D got his first bucket and spade.

One of the inevitable things about spending time with my family is that the conversation will regularly turn back to food. We all take a keen interest in it and, in fact, I think my Mum is the only person who stockpiles more recipe magazines than I do. She and I spent a pleasant couple of hours in the kitchen on Saturday, pottering and gossiping.

These cherry oat squares with chocolate drizzle were quick and easy to knock up and perfect with a cup of tea.

Saturday evening the barbecue was dusted off, despite the ever present threat of drizzle, for a feast of seafood. We had king prawns, all coral and char, whole sea bass with a chilli dressing and shark steaks with a beautiful salsa verde courtesy of my parent's herb patch and D2. The shark was a revelation - almost meat like in texture with a taste that was akin to fresh tuna. The women, as is customary, provided the side dishes so as to allow the men ample time to play with fire. There was couscous, spiced with cumin, coriander and cinnamon and topped with thin slices of griddled halloumi:

and a medley of roasted vegetables: aubergine, courgette, pepper, onion, potatoes tossed in oil and coriander seeds and roasted then finished off on the hob with tomatoes and chickpeas and sprinkled with fresh coriander. It was delicious cold the next day.

Sunday found us enjoying a beautiful leg of lamb, roasted a la Heston
with garlic, anchovies and rosemary. No picture of this one I'm afraid - too busy enjoying the pinkly succulent meat. There was also this malt chocolate cheesecake. Only click that link if you're feeling strong - at 20 odd pro points per serving it is not for the Weight Watcher or the faint hearted.

Sadly back to reality now. I'm off to Liverpool for a few days and have so far managed to ignore the scales glowering at me in the corner of the bathroom. But I think I can bear any gain in return for such good food and even better company.

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