Thursday, 16 May 2013

Thursday 16th of May 2013

A simple roast tonight, just a lovely piece of pork shoulder, some baked potatoes and one vegetable; some sprightly-looking spring greens that I couldn't resist when I was out shopping..

Take a whole head of garlic, the cloves separated but unpeeled, two or three lemons, quartered, and 3 shallots, skins left on and halved. Add to this several fresh bay leaves and, if you can, a pig's trotter, split. I get these easily from my butcher, and they cost next to nothing (and often actually nothing).  Rest the pork on top, I unrolled the joint to allow for quicker cooking and maximum output of crackling. Pour over a little oil, then sprinkle with crumbled dried bay leaves (I dry the leaves from our bay tree in the microwave, giving them 30-second bursts until dry and crunchy) and a good grinding of white pepper. Obviously the cooking time will vary based on the size of your joint; I work on 20 minutes per pound (or 450g, if you prefer) in a hot oven.

Pouring a glass of white wine over the pork after about 20 minutes and later still adding 350ml, give or take, of stock (I used pork stock, but chicken would be fine too, as well as fine crackling (the secret to which, strange as it seems, is regular basting with the juices from the roasting tin) it produced an easy gravy that was not as thick and meaty as some, but aromatic and flavoursome with a kick of sharpness from the lemon.  Hubby wasn't as keen on this as he is on my more usual thicker and 'meatier' gravies, but the children and I adored it.  When the pork is cooked and resting, strain the juices into a saucepan.  Add a splash of boiling water to the roasting pan and, with a wooden spoon, scrape up the 'burny'- looking tasty bits from the bottom.  Strain this liquid into the pan too, then cover and boil hard for a few minutes to emulsify the gravy.  Season to taste and pour into a warmed jug.

Serve the pork, sliced, with shards of crackling, baked potatoes and simple steamed greens.  Perfect.

Cath xx

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Sunday 12th of May 2013

Today we're having a lazy, chilled-out day; the children have a birthday party to go to later on and my lovely, lovely Husband has relieved me of the need to take them, meaning that I will - for once - get a bit of actual weekend time to myself, and at home to boot!

This morning I've done only a very little kitchen pottering, mainly making the boys' lunch - baked sweet potatoes with cream cheese and pesto filling - but also refreshing my bottle of garlic vinegar and making up a fresh batch of seasoned salt, which I use often.  It started out as 'chicken seasoning' (and is, still, superlative scattered over chicken before roasting), but since finding more and more uses for it (not least scattering over potatoes before baking, whether whole or cut up), I've taken to calling it seasoned salt, though in reality it's more like salty spice-and-herb-mix. That hardly trips off the tongue though, does it?

My Seasoned Salt

9 tbsp fine sea salt
6 tsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 dsp dried oregano
1 tsp English mustard powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp (freshly ground) black pepper
1 tsp dried dill

Mix everything together.  I tend to give it all a good whirl in the processor, to eliminate any streaks of salt. Bung it in a jar.  Use liberally and often.

The garlic vinegar is a precious substance that I was first introduced to by the late Laurie Colwin's wonderful book More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, which I bought in 2004 when I was pregnant with our first child. Ibecomes, over time, a liquid essence of garlic which can be dangerously addictive.  Poke 3 peeled garlic cloves into a clean glass bottle and top up with cider vinegar.  I imagine you could successfully use a wine, sherry or even rice vinegar instead, but I never have. When the bottle is nearly, but not quite, empty I like to strain out the remaining vinegar and replace the garlic cloves with fresh ones before returning the 'old' vinegar to the bottle and topping up with 'new'. Hope you've enjoyed your weekend, and Happy Mother's Day to moms in the U.S.A. (and everywhere else too, we deserve it!)

Cath xx

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Saturday 11th of May 2013

I love avocados.  Popping a couple in my shopping basket and bringing them home, to be tucked away in a brown paper bag on the kitchen counter until they are perfectly ripe has become something of a weekly ritual.  Sliced into salads,  quickly mashed to spread on a tortilla for a fast quesadilla or just eaten, greedily,  with a splash of vinaigrette,  I've yet to find a way to eat them that I've not liked. Jeffrey Steingarten informs me, in The Man Who Ate Everything, (a corker of a book, by the way, and highly recommended) that "Brazilians eat avocados for dessert,  mashed up with sugar". Haven't tried it yet, but maybe one of these days I will...

Last night, for supper, I grilled a stack of lamb leg steaks and made a couple of different salads to go with.  In the interests of gilding the lily,  I also toasted some pitta and knocked up a batch of this gorgeous avocado houmous.  Smooth and mildly nutty-tasting, this knocks guacamole out of the park as far as I'm concerned, and is A.Mazing with lamb.  It also has the huge advantage of staying perfectly green for days,  rather than mere minutes,  so can be handily stashed in the 'fridge for hungry moments (or, quite frankly, for those standing-by-the-open-'fridge-with-a-spoon moments!).  Cooking the already-cooked, tinned chickpeas for a few more minutes makes for a desirably smooth houmous, plus you can fish out as many of the papery skins as possible (they seem to detach easily when cooked) for an even better texture.

Avocado Houmous

410g can chickpeas,  drained and rinsed well
2 ripe avocados,  flesh scooped out and roughly chunked up
1 dsp tahini
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
juice of a lemon
avocado oil, as needed (and see below)

Put the drained,  rinsed chickpeas into a saucepan and cover with water.   Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes,  or until very soft.  Scoop out as many of the skins as you can or want to.   Drain and allow them to steam dry for a few minutes.  Put everything, bar the oil (and you can use a different mild oil if you want, I just always use avocado oil here) into the processor and whizz to a smooth and creamy looking paste.  Drizzle in oil to achieve the texture that you want,  I prefer my houmous to be on the softer side, rather than standing up in stiff peaks.  Serve immediately, or seal in a tub in the 'fridge for later.

Cath xx


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