Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A grand day out

Lesley is very wise. In a comment on my last post she pointed out that there was nothing to stop me blogging about things other than food and cooking (or the lack thereof) while things were a bit squiffy. By which I mean peculiar rather than drunk. And she's right - I don't want to get out of the blog habit. Plus, a blog about food is always going to be about lifestyle as well, isn't it...sort of...?

So. Me and the husband are currently dating in an attempt to reinvigorate, rebuild, revitalise (I'm not sure what the correct word is in the circumstances) our relationship. Now, the thing about dating - as opposed to actually being married - is that you have to do stuff. So today we spent a few hours wandering around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

It's been on my to do list for years and I wasn't disappointed. Huge, often random, sculptures in a beautiful outdoor setting? Fresh air and culture in equal measures? An exhibition by an artist with a frankly bewildering fixation with female genitalia?

The layout is such that just wandering through woodland you encounter all manner of things. Like these choice specimens.

I was glad we chose this time of year to go. The autumn leaves and bleak sky set off the pieces beautifully.

Some were more peculiar than others...

Yes, that is a giant hare with breasts. I had to wait a long time for the gaggle of schoolboys to get out of the way before taking this shot. And here are some headless people sitting on chairs. They are hollow which represents emptiness and futility - this I know because the label told me so. I would have thought making them hollow made them lighter and thus easier to transport, but what do I know?

We spent over three hours there and only covered a tiny amount of the total space. Considering that you only have to pay for parking (£7.50 for the whole day) it was amazing value and we're already discussing a return trip in January when the temporary exhibition changes.

If you find yourself in the Leeds / Wakefield area and you have a penchant for this sort of thing then I would highly recommend it.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Hello, world!

I was chastised over the weekend for my lack of blog updates.

The trouble is that my cooking and eating is a bit meh at the moment. I'm still, let's be completely honest, missing my husband, my cosy flat, my cosy life and microwave meals and fish finger sandwiches just seem so much more...achievable.

But they do not a dieting foodie blog make.

I just do not feel particularly inspired, I'll be honest with you.

For me it seems, cooking is not just about providing fuel but sharing - a meal, love, time...I know I have to learn that cooking something nice for oneself is still an expression of love, just maybe a less obvious kind.

Still, it's not all bad news. Look at the gorgeous girl who jumps in through my living room window every now and then:

And I saw my darling Min at the weekend and I'd hate for her to be jealous:

I suppose there are worse things to be than a crazy cat lady...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The New Normal

In which I discuss the art of dating and provide a very user friendly version of Heston Blumenthal's macaroni cauliflower cheese.

D and I had been together eight and a half years when we separated, albeit on a trial basis. That's a long time, especially, I think, when it essentially covers the period from early(ish) twenties to thirties - for me, my real growing up years.

We're still trying to work out what this separation should look like. One thing we are agreed on is that we should try just dating for a while. Dating. Remember that? When you got dressed up and went out and did something as opposed to sitting on the sofa in pyjamas with a bottle of wine and a boxset? Yeah, dim and distant for me too. I got married so I wouldn't have to do dating anymore but there you go...

As of Saturday I have my first top tip for anyone who may find themselves in a similar position. When you book tickets for an event, EVEN if you book them through a particular theatre box office don't be so naive as to assume said theatre is where the event actually is. Apparently, in the last eight and a half years, things have changed. And I have failed to change along with them. Check, check and check again all the details of your "date" if you are the organising party - this will prevent your sort-of ex rolling his eyes, biting his lip and generally remembering all the annoying, scatty habits you had which led him to leave in the first place.
Why not invite him around for dinner? No location based issues to fend with then, and why not make him something like the below? It's rich and decadent enough to appeal to the sternest heart.

This is an adaptation of the recipe in Heston B's latest which is called something like "At Home" or "Easy Peasy Recipes for Busy People". The original requires a trip to the chemist to buy something more commonly used to treat cystitis than ameliorate your dinner and a number of slightly twiddly processes. I am sure that these are there to make the dish better but the below was scrumptious, easy enough to whip up after a day at work and with just a tiny tweak to the amount of butter and cheese and a swap of whole for skimmed milk, relatively WW friendly. Hurrah.

Don't be put off by the small amount of pasta - this quantity is definitely sufficient.

150g cauliflower florets
200ml skimmed milk
100g macaroni
80g Gruyere plus 20g for topping
20g Parmesan
Tsp wholegrain mustard
20g butter

Serves 2, 14 pro points per portion

Place most of the cauliflower florets in a saucepan - keeping a few back for the final stage. Go for a large pan with a big surface area so that the milk will almost cover when poured over. Place over a medium heat and simmer for 35 minutes. When done, the vegetable should be meltingly soft - tip cauliflower and milk into a blender and whizz to a smooth purée.

Cook the pasta in well salted water until al dente.

Bring the cauliflower mixture back to a simmer, add the cheeses and mix well. When the cheese has melted and the sauce is unctuous and smooth, stir through the mustard, the butter and season to taste.

Fold the cooked pasta and reserved raw cauliflower florets through the sauce. Top with the reserved Gruyere and pop under the grill and bubbling and golden.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

It's never too early...


Some amongst you may scoff that it is FAR too early in the year to be thinking about the C word. But let me tell you, these Heston Christmas puddings will be rarer than gold dust come the beginning if December. So when I happened across a stand full of them in Waitrose this afternoon I simply couldn't resist...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Foodie Penpals - September

Regular readers of this blog will know that September was not the best of months for me: I started a new job, moved house and separated from my husband all in the space of thirty days.

Before all that - back in those heady days when I had a clue what was going on - I signed up to a rather fabulous scheme called Foodie Penpals. You can read about it here but the gist is that you buy some yummy things, pack them in a box and send them to a fellow foodie with a note of explanation.

My box arrived on one of the most horrible days of my life and, deeply mired in self pity as I was, it still managed to raise a smile from me. That's one of the amazing things about blogging. You become a part, albeit a tiny one, of a wider community where the collective spirit is one of support and kindness and joy.

My package came from the very lovely Carys. Look at my loot!

What was especially nice was how thoughtful the items were.

There were some Welsh delicacies - including some extremely gorgeous Welsh cakes (best described as flattish, lightly spiced scones - how have I managed to miss these for the past thirty years??) Oh, and toffee waffles that you perch on a cup of tea until they go all gooey and delectable. I definitely must go for tea in Wales.

There were also some slightly offbeat offerings - I told Carys via email that I would try anything once and she definitely took me up on it! But, let me tell you my friends, if you have never tried cheddar and toffee popcorn then you are seriously missing out. It is one of the most moreish snacks I've come across in a long time. I've found it here and will definitely be purchasing some more very soon. Roasted chickpeas proved almost as addictive - and being as healthy as they are tasty make a perfect snack for a WWer trying to claw her way back onto the wagon.

I still haven't got around to trying the green tea noodles and Japanese seasoning but see a seared tuna steak dish in my very near future to sample these.

So thank you to Carys, to Carole Ann who organises the scheme and, in fact, thank you to all you bloggers who have made this little corner of the web such a lovely place to be. Roll on October!

Meal Planning Monday - 1st October 2012

I'm back! Kind of...

This is my first meal planning post for a while, my first in my new home and my first as a singleton. Phew. I'm keeping it extremely simple and with lots of nursery food options on there (see Thursday and Sunday!) to get me back in the swing and to soothe my troubles away - while remaining on track. Where a dish won't freeze particularly well I shall just eat it over two nights. I know - contentious (but frugal).

• Monday and Tuesday - cheese and tomato bread pudding with salad in honey mustard dressing.

• Wednesday - out having a crying on the shoulder session with my lovely friend A. Going straight from work so will have an Innocent veg pot before leaving the office.

• Thursday - fish fingers, mash, peas, carrots and oodles of ketchup.

• Friday - tuna pasta bake using the Homepride sauce that lovely Jenny has recommended previously.

• Saturday - a slow cooker chilli using beef brisket and chorizo, from a Thomasina Miers recipe which can be found here.

• Sunday - back to the nursery for
potato waffles, baked beans and a poached egg. To be taken in front of Downton - if I have a working television before then!

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