Chargrilled Vegetable Pasta

Left over dips and a zest free lemon

What is a person to do with a spoonful of olive dip, a couple of spoons of aubergine and red pepper dip and a zestless lemon?

Chargrilled veg pasta

Add a few other ingredients and create an awesome pasta dish, that’s what!

This is a bit of an unfair recipe really, because unless you’ve made the olive dip and the aubergine and red pepper dip that I’ve previously posted, and have some leftover, then you won’t be able to make this exact dish.

Still, I decided to post anyway partly because those factors might have aligned for you, but perhaps more to demonstrate the fundamental principle that making pasta sauce is a good way to use up leftover dips like these, or salsa, or a bean dip, or any other non-creamy dip really.

Orange bell pepper and artichokes in oil

Ingredients
Enough pasta for your serving requirements
3-4 tablespoons of leftover dips (the non-creamy variety)
1 red onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
A splash or two of olive oil
Passata – probably about 150-200ml
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
A couple of squeezes of lemon juice
Vegetables for chargrilling – I used an orange bell pepper and some artichokes in lemon oil but courgettes, aubergines and the like would be great too.
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Music

Put your pasta on to cook – follow instructions on packet – when ready, drain and keep warm.

Chargrilled vegetables

Meanwhile, brush your chosen vegetables with oil and cook on a very hot griddle or grill, until chargrilled.  Conveniently, this should take about the same amount of time as it does for the pasta to cook and for you to make the sauce 🙂

If they’re done sooner, pop them on a plate and keep them warm.

Red onion, thyme and garlic

Heat a splash of oil in a large pan and cooked the diced onions until just starting to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for a few more moments.

Passata

Add your leftover dips and enough passata to loosen the mixture but not make it runny – today we’re making a coating sauce, not a bowl of soup 😉

Tip in your cooked pasta and gently stir to make sure it’s all well coated with sauce.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle over the thyme leaves, stir and allow to warm through for another minute or so.

Arrange vegetables on top

Season to taste and serve with chargrilled vegetables arranged on top.

Beam with pride – by using up leftovers instead of leaving them at the back of the fridge to fester quietly into the afterlife, you did a little bit to help the planet.

Tuck into your dinner with gusto (or some other dining companion if you prefer 😉 )

x

Stinky mushrooms (mushrooms in blue cheese)

Day 7 of the Cupboard Challenge presented an unmotivated Renegade household with mushrooms and blue cheese that urgently needed using up…it really had to be stinky mushrooms.  This was absolutely no hardship, because stinky mushrooms are flippin’ delicious!

They make the perfect, easy wind down meal for a stay-in Friday (she says, as if on a ‘normal’ Friday social fluttering is the standard order of things – there are  pandas with more active social lives than mine).  These mushrooms also make a great starter when served in individual dishes and browned off under a hot grill.

For this meal we had them with baked potatoes.  If you’re planning to do the same and they’re not yet ready, I suggest you whack those spuds into the oven straight away.  Now bugger off to do something else until 10 minutes before they’re done.

Back so soon?

To serve two

Ingredients
5-6 decent sized mushrooms (chestnut ones are great but we only had white ones in)
A knob of butter and a little oil
Approx 150ml Single cream
1 teaspoon-ish mustard
A chunk of blue cheese – cubed
A tiny end piece of Parmesan – grated (optional)
A handful of fresh parsley – roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

MushroomsClean or peel mushrooms, and slice.
Browned mushrooms

Heat butter and oil in a frying pan then add the mushrooms.

If you want to make sure you get beautifully browned fungi, remember Julia’s edict: “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” 😉  Cook in batches; drain on kitchen roll.

Cheese sauce ingredients

Cheese sauceWipe the pan clean with kitchen roll.  Add cream, cheese (both blue and Parmesan, if using) and mustard; stir over a low heat until cheese has melted.

Add mushrooms back into pan and stir to coat with sauce.

Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in chopped parsley.

Baked potatoIf you’re having this as a starter or stand alone dish, pile the mushrooms into individual dishes, top with a little grated parmesan and brown under a hot grill.

If you’re having the mushrooms in baked potatoes, cut open the spuds, slather in some butter and add a good dose of black pepper.
Served in baked potatoes, with saladPile sauced mushrooms into baked potatoes and serve with a salad of chopped apple, celery and rocket (no dressing required).

Eat with feet up, while watching nonsense TV.  If possible, wash it all down with an ice cold bottle of cider.

And relaaax….
x

Fantastically Flavoursome Pasta Bake

Day 6 of the Cupboard Challenge, and in the process of preparing dishes for Big Sis’ impending birthday celebration I’d managed to add a couple of red peppers to our supplies.  For a short while I was worried that this might be cheating, but then I remembered…this is my game so I can make up the rules.

It’s not cheating.
To any VIPs reading this: I know, and I’ll say it before you do – 7 or 47, some things never change 😀

The beauty of this dish, as with much of what we cook, is that it’s pretty willing to flex according to what you have in your stores.  Treat the following as a guide…this is by no means a recipe that needs to be slavishly followed!

OrecchietteNote however, that the shape of your pasta does make a difference to the finished dish.  I like to use orecchiette for this as all the chopped pieces of meat and veg get caught and held in the pasta dimples.  Little tubes, like tortiglioni work well too, as do the small shell shapes of conchigliette.  Long pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine is not so great.

Number of servings depends on how much of everything you use, and on how big the receiving appetites are.;-)

Ingredients
Sufficient cooked pasta for your serving requirements.
Courgette – diced
Red pepper – diced
Soffritto
 Dried porcini mushrooms – soaked in hot water for around 30 mins (keep the liquid for the sauce)
A handful of diced pancetta
A splash of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan for topping

Sauce Ingredients
Another splash of olive oil
Crushed garlic – a lot or a little, as you prefer
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a good splash of the mushroom soaking liquid
1 chicken stock pot (or stock cube)
Approx. 150g crème fraîche (or more, or less…flexible, remember? 😉 )
A few sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves picked from stalks
More sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Got your groove on?  And your apron if you wear one?  Let’s set to it then…

Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400°F.

Put your cooked pasta into a large bowl.

Drain the mushrooms (keeping the liquid) and roughly chop – add to the pasta.

Prepared vegHeat the oil and cook the soffritto over a medium heat until it starts to soften.  Turn up the heat a little and add the red pepper and courgettes; continue to cook until the peppers are just beginning to soften and the courgettes are starting to brown.

Add to the pasta and mushrooms.

Cubed pancettaChuck the pancetta into the same pan used for the vegetables, and fry until beginning to crisp.  Soak off excess fat with kitchen roll, then add to pasta and veg.

Pasta mixMix pasta, veg and pancetta together, season with salt and pepper, then tip into a shallow, oven proof dish.

See what I mean about those lovely veggies getting held in the pasta?  Like teeny tiny serving bowls they are 😉

Garlic and thymeNow for the sauce:  wipe out your pan with kitchen roll, leaving the thinnest layer of pancetta fat…sauté the crushed garlic in that (just a few seconds)

Tinned chopped tomatoes

Chicken stockpotAdd the chopped tomatoes, stock pot and some mushroom liquid.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.

Creme fraicheRemove pan from heat.  Stir in crème fraîche, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.

Liberally sprinkled with grated parmesanPour sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.  Be liberal but not insanely generous…you want it to crisp up a bit, not end up in a gloopy blob.

Baked cheese often seems to look burned in my photos - in reality this was perfectly browned ;-)
Baked cheese often seems to look burned in my photos – in reality this was perfectly browned 😉

Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbling.

Pasta bake with baked fennelOn this occasion we had baked fennel on the side, but a fresh green salad is good too.

In its baked form this dish wasn’t wildly photogenic…but does it really matter when something tastes this good?
x

Steak ‘n’ salad

The last few days have been utter madness.

Firstly, someone drove into the back of the car Barn was travelling to work in.  Fortunately no-one was seriously injured, and for that I am truly grateful.

However, Barn and one of his colleagues sustained some damage to neck, shoulder and back.  Barn has been a little vexed and cranky about this; not because of the discomfort per se, more because it’s impeding his usual gym routine – challenging times for this born again fitness enthusiast (and his long suffering wife 😉 )

Additionally, things have been particularly  demanding at the day job – it’s one of our busy periods, so long and late shifts are currently fairly standard. On top of that it seems that anything that could go wrong, has been going wrong, particularly anything computerised; we barely get one thing sorted when another implodes. Pile on top of that a couple of ‘problem’ employees, impending deadlines for important paperwork, and a sudden procedural change that requires my whole team to be retrained.  A tad stressful.

Crazy EmpressNow, just for good measure, let’s add in the Crazy Empress, who has suddenly decided to spend 90% of her waking time sitting at closed doors crying to be let in/out.  It’s not that she wants to actually be somewhere…she just wants to be on the other side of any closed door.  As soon as you let her through, she wants to come back again.  So essentially, all internal house doors must be open, or she will cry.  That’s such fun!

MoochFinally, we have Mooch who, never wanting to be left out of anything, has decided to cry every time the cat does.  Not for anything, just because the cat’s doing it.  It’s like having a pair of toddlers in the house.

Perhaps then, you will understand why on Day 5 of the Cupboard Challenge, I was seeking the easiest of easy food?  Comfort food with a vitamin punch was needed, sought and found in the form of steak, baked potato, salad and blue cheese dressing.

And some music to go with it…

I’m absolutely positive you don’t need me to tell you how to cook a steak, so I’m not going to.

Steak, baked potato and saladI used up a lovely little piece of fillet steak that had been loitering in a corner of the freezer just waiting for me to want it;  Barn had half a chicken but I forgot to photograph that.  I’m sure you can imagine what half a roast chicken looks like.

Salad stuffI’m pretty sure you can bake a potato and make a salad too.  This is what went into my salad.

Blue cheese dressingI made a blue cheese dressing by mashing some Danish Blue together with mayonnaise; in the absence of soured cream I loosened it with a little balsamic dressing.  The consistency was more like a dip and visually it was a bit like cement, but my word, it tasted divine!

Steak, salad and baked potatoAnd there you have it – a simple, comforting, nutritious dinner to fortify the flagging Renegades.

I hope you’re all having a smoother week than we are?

If not, hang in there, the weekend’s coming! 🙂

x

Blue cheese, pear and pancetta salad

With only one to cater for, the focus for Day 4 of the Cupboard Challenge was to use up some of the really small portions of stuff.  In the end it was a quick and simple affair.  Just like this post 😉

Quantities are for one serving.

Ingredients
1 ripe pear
A hunk of Stilton or other blue cheese, similar size to the pear
A handful of cubed pancetta
Baby spinach or other green salad leaves
A handful of walnut pieces (optional)

Dressing ingredientsFor the dressing
2 dessert spoons mayonnaise
1 dessert spoon natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon mustard
A splash of balsamic dressing (or just balsamic vinegar)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

This won’t take long, so press play and let’s get movin’…DressingPut all the dressing ingredients into a small jar, tighten lid and shake vigorously.  Or put them into a small bowl and stir energetically.

Adjust seasoning according to taste – bear in mind the saltiness provided by the cheese and pancetta to the end dish.

That’s your dressing done.Cubed pancettaHeat a frying pan and cook the pancetta cubes over a medium to high heat until brown and crispy.  Set to one side on kitchen roll.

Toasted walnuts would have been the ideal finishing touch for this salad, so even though we had none in, and thus I didn’t use any, I’ve included them in the ingredient list.  In hindsight, I should have used the toasted sunflower seeds that we do have in to provide that glorious contrasting crunch.

If you have some nuts or seeds in the house and you want to use them to top the salad, now is the time to toast them…a quick shake ‘n’ stir over a high heat in a dry frying pan will do the job.
Pear and StiltonQuarter and core (but don’t peel) the pear.  Cube both pear and blue cheese and place in a bowl.

This picture shows sun dried tomatoes strewn over the dish.  I advise against this - the texture was all wrong and their flavour jarred with the rest.  
This picture shows sun dried tomatoes strewn over the dish. I advise against this – the texture was all wrong and their flavour jarred with the rest.

Pour dressing over the cheese and pears; stir gently to combine.

Make a little bed on your plate with the salad leaves, pile the dressed cheese and pears onto it, and scatter the pancetta (and nuts, if using) over the top.

That’s it, you’re done!

Grab a fork and eat.

x

Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Mango Salsa

We awoke early this morning to a stunningly beautiful, hot, sunny day – a rare enough occasion in these parts to instantly elevate the day’s status to ‘awesome’.

Days like this tend to trigger serious house and garden maintenance activity from both Barn and me – dust motes dancing in sun rays are only romantic in films and photographs, and prostrating oneself for sun worship amidst towering grasses and triffidesque weeds is not altogether appealing.

Today, by some unspoken agreement, and in a manner quite atypical of the Renegade household, we went with the ‘traditional’ breakdown of tasks: while he was outside, hacking around, always alert for the possibility of discovering lost tribes in the depths of the wilderness, I was hurtling around the house, corralling possessions back to their designated areas, collecting laundry from behind the bathroom door, and terrorising dust bunnies with the hoover.

In no time at all the house was guest presentable and the garden is now, if not tamed, at least subdued.  It’s amazing how quickly things can get done when the sun is doffing its hat and waggling its hot little fingers at you.

The view from the garden swing seat
The view from the garden swing seat

I think the smell of cut grass and the heat of the sun joined forces with the temptingly ripe mango to influence the dinner menu on Day 2 of the Cupboard Challenge.

Serves two
Plan ahead as this requires marinading time!

Chicken Kebab Ingredients
400g chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 courgette, cut into chunks
1-2 onions, cut into chunks

It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had...
It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had…

Marinade
1 Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Approx. 2 dessert spoons dark brown sugar (I used muscovado)
A good couple of glugs of olive oil
Approx. 4 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce if not bothered about gluten)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
A good grating of fresh nutmeg

Although there's garlic in this picture, I didn't use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.
Although there’s garlic in this picture, I didn’t use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.

Mango Salsa Ingredients
1 ripe mango, diced
2 spring onions, sliced
zest and juice of half a lemon (again, lime would have been better)
Half Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
Music

Chicken in marinade

Get the kebabs under way by putting all the marinade ingredients into a shallow dish and mixing well.  Add chicken chunks and smoosh around with your hands to ensure all the pieces are well coated. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours (I think 6 hours would be even better).

Mango salsa

Next up, put all the salsa ingredients into a bowl, stir well, cover and refrigerate for around 4-6 hours (depending how long your chicken’s getting).

While the chicken’s marinading and the salsa’s melding, go and read a trashy novel (or your personal equivalent).  If possible, sit in sunshine.

Courgettes and onions

Chickn and veg on skewers

When the marinading time’s up, or you’re ravenous and just can’t wait any longer, thread alternating chunks of chicken, courgette and onion onto skewers.

Chicken kebabs

Grill, or barbecue, turning frequently, making sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Baste with marinade during cooking to keep the chicken moist and intensify flavour.

Spicy chicken kebabs, mango salsa and potato wedgesServe with oven crisped potato wedges, peppery watercress and the luscious mango salsa.  Or serve with other things, as you wish.

This whole meal tasted amazing; however, visually it would have benefited from additional colour.  If I’d had any I’d have added sweet red pepper, either diced in the salsa or chunked for the kebabs.  In the absence of red peppers, perhaps I should have used tomatoes?

x

Thai Style Meatballs

The first focus for the Cupboard Challenge was to use up six Italian herb flavoured meatballs that were in the freezer. We’d eaten their compatriots with tomato sauce and spaghetti, but had not been wildly impressed – that’s why the last six were still in the freezer waiting to be cooked.

I’m happy to say they were quite delicious served up like this.

To serve two:

herbs and spicesCurry Paste Ingredients
4 cloves garlic
2 red bird’s eye chillies (I remove the seeds – you might like to keep them in and set your mouth on fire)
1 green finger chilli (see above)
1 kaffir lime leaf
a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon galangal paste
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2-3 teaspoons tamari (or use soy sauce)
A good handful of fresh coriander
Approx. 150g soffritto

Other Ingredients
Approx. 2 tablespoons rapeseed/canola oil
6 meatballs
5 tablespoons passata
1 tin coconut milk
1 chicken stockpot (I’m sure a stock cube would do just as well)
1 handful green beans
Rice noodles
1 spring onion, chopped, to garnish
Music

Ready?  Ok, let’s get started…with soffrito, chopped

Chuck all the curry paste ingredients into the food processor and whizz until finely chopped.

browning the meatballsHeat oil in pan (you need to use one that has a lid – the lid comes later), add meatballs and curry paste.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meatballs are browned and spice mix is beginning to release those yummy oils.

passata

coconut milk

Chicken stockpot

Add passata, coconut milk and stockpot.  Stir well, bring to the boil then lower heat.  Cover pan with lid (there’s the lid!) and gently simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

green beans

Add green beans and cook for a further 15 minutes.Rice noodles

While the beans are cooking, get your rice noodles under way.  These ones just need to be soaked in hot water for 15 minutes – simplicity itself.Thai style meatballs with rice noodles

Drain noodles, ladle on meatballs and sauce, scatter with chopped spring onion, say, “ta-da!”

So that’s what I cooked up.  What would you have done with the six bland meatballs?

x

Introducing the Cupboard Challenge

Cupboard ChallengeI collect ingredients with the compulsive fervour of a school boy collecting football cards.

Our ‘big shop’ is done (online) with some consideration and a degree of meal planning.  However, if I allow myself to roam, in real life, anywhere ingredients are sold, I tend to buy like a hoarder, without plan or direction.

A fresh, shiny purple aubergine, a little tub of some exotic spice, a wonderfully shaped pasta, salty white truffle butter, a pile of glistening, fat olives…when it comes to quality ingredients, I have scant self control – sensory pleasure takes over and I just have to possess it.  I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to use it, but I’m sure I will .  

Now, there’s one thing that stands between me and becoming a scoundrel who contributes significantly to the profligate waste of the planet’s resources – the fact that I hate seeing food go in the bin.  Combine this with the inevitable overstocks resulting from my purchasing habits, and you will see why there are times when our meal preparation resembles an edition of Ready, Steady, Cook.

A recent inventory of our food resources has indicated the need for a whole cooking programme series, never mind a single edition.  And so it came to pass that Barn and I made a pledge – for at least a 10 days we will cook using only what is already in the house – we call it a Cupboard Challenge.

Truth be told, this is not going to be a particularly difficult challenge; the cupboards are well stocked with basics, including an untold number of spices, varieties of pasta and rice, tins of tomatoes, and canned beans.

The fridge contains our usual wide selection of cheeses and massive array of condiments and pickles, plus veg, salad items, cream, butter and other general nonsense.

Our freezer is currently filled with a wide range of odds ‘n’ sods:  half a dozen or so different pots of sauces, wraps, soffritto, a variety of veg,  lots of ‘odd’ portions of meat and fish – one lamb chop, one salmon fillet, one pork loin steak…  There’s a few good portions of meat (minced pork, chicken breast, a beef joint, 12 pork sausages) but it’s mostly stuff that is insufficient in quantity to be a meal, in and of itself, for two or more people.

Oh, and of course, due to our miserably haphazard to non-existent labelling systems, there’s also the mystery pots – those items whose true nature won’t be revealed until they’re thawed.  Exciting times!

So good people, brace yourselves for the oncoming slew of rather imprecise, slightly unusual recipes.

🙂

x

P.S. You didn’t think that picture was my actual pantry, did you?  I wish!

The food week that was – 02/03/15

I’m sure you know the story of King Alfred the Great – the guy who allegedly let the cakes burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his beleaguered kingdom?  Well, I bet you’ve never heard the story of Barn, the guy who let the pies burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his kingdom?

Alfred had fair justification for his absent minded approach to baked goods; the fellow’s very life was in danger and he was on the run – sleeping in ditches and begging for food – whilst also trying to save his lands from actual marauding Vikings.  There was every reason for culinary timing to be low on his list of priorities.  For Barn?  Not so much.

He was sitting comfortably, on a sofa in his living room, tasked with nothing more than listening out for the oven timer then informing me of said occurrence.  The only kingdom he had any concerns about was the virtual one in Kingdom of Camelot (oh yeh, I’ll name it and shame ya! 😘 ), and the only ‘life’ in danger was that of a pixelated soldier.  Apparently he didn’t hear or smell a thing as the oven alarm shrieked for its fully allowed time slot, and our dinner gave itself to the funeral pyre, clutching its last vestiges of flavour, mourning its uncelebrated heyday.

Naturally he was referred to as Burning Barn for the rest of the evening.  No opportunity, no matter how small or tenuous, was passed over when it came to teasing and tormenting him.  Petit Man is a great ‘bouncing’ partner for this particular form of verbal entertainment (Mum and Medieval are also superb co-jousters, but sadly they weren’t around for this one); we amused ourselves mightily, stumbling upon forcing references to Barn the Great Pie Torturer from every TV advert, programme and innocuous conversation :twisted:.

Chicken chorizo pot piesMonday: So…what we had Monday was potentially-awesome-but-kinda-burned chicken and chorizo pot pies, served with hideously burned roast cauliflower and some steamed veg.

The chicken was poached in cider, then the cider stock reduced and used with cream to make a sauce for the chicken, fried chorizo and leeks.  A happy little layer survived the torrid oven affair and was sufficiently good to put the recipe on the ‘definitely try it again’ list.

Fridge bottom soupTuesday: Fridge bottom soup.  Sounds vile doesn’t it?  I know I should call it ‘leek and courgette’, or ‘cream of veg’ or somesuch, but it was what it says…soup made with stuff that needed using up from the drawer at the bottom of the fridge.

Sautéed soffrito (finely diced onion, carrot and celery in the ratio 2:1:1 – an excellent starting point for many sauces, stews etc. – make huge batches with a food processor and keep portions in the freezer); chopped leeks and courgettes added & browned.  Two crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme and parsley, dried oregano chucked in and swished around for a while.  Chicken stock added (enough to cover veg plus a bit more) and simmered for about 15 minutes.  Blitzed in the food processor, added soured cream, a little double cream, and chives.  Reheated, adjusted seasoning, added an extra swirl of cream and more fresh herbs to finish.  Served with warm g/f cheesy puffs made with extra mature cheddar and English mustard.  It tasted insanely good.

Chicken pear and stilton saladWednesday dinner: Warm salad of grilled chicken breast and sweet ripe pears, with creamy blue Stilton and crunchy caramelised walnuts; served with baked tomatoes on a bed of crisp, fresh watercress and baby spinach leaves, dressed with wholegrain mustard and balsamic vinaigrette.

Barn made the leftovers into a sandwich for his lunch at work the next day.  I believe he was hoping for a reaction something akin to one of these:

What he got was this:

K: What’ve you got there?

Barn: Olive ciabatta, with watercress, pears and…

K: Pears?!

Barn: Yeh, and blue cheese…

K: Mouldy cheese?!

Barn:  …and chicken.

Pause, while each chews their chosen lunch and K contemplates Barn’s sandwich

K, dubiously: Well, I suppose the chicken would be ok.

Continue reading

The food week that was – 23/02/15

Happy St. David’s Day people of Wales!

Each year, this day brings back abundant memories of being at primary school in a tiny Welsh village …in particular, being issued with a choice of leek or daffodil to wear for the day.  The older kids always went with a leek, preferably one so large it had to be worn cross-wise on the chest, with a phalanx of pins required to keep it there.  This would then be nibbled and gnawed throughout the day, much to the chagrin of the head teacher, who felt it to be utterly disrespectful to the patron saint.  End of day prayers and gratitudes would be chanted by around 20 children sporting leek roots on their now out of shape jumpers.

Back to modern times, no raw leeks were consumed this week.  The following dishes were though:

Roast pork shoulderMonday: Most people have a Sunday roast but because we were too busy lazy to cook it on Sunday, we had a Monday roast instead.

Pork shoulder with a honey, rosemary and garlic glaze,  braised red cabbage with apple and cranberries, roast potatoes, steamed carrots, Petit Man’s awesome cauliflower cheese with leeks, and gravy that was perked up with a splash of red wine.  Right up there in the yumminess charts.

Brisket wrapsTuesday: The previous night we’d taken some pulled brisket from the freezer with no plan as to what to do with it.  When dinner time came all of us were tired and can’t-be-botheredish, so once again we trod the path of least resistance and went for wraps made thusly:

Fry up onion, garlic and strips of green peppers; add shredded beef and heat thoroughly.  Generously spread a tortilla wrap (in this case herb and garlic ones) with chilli ketchup and top with grated cheese (we used a mix of Monterey Jack, mozzarella and extra mature farmhouse cheddar – but that’s just because it was what we had in the fridge!).  Grill until cheese has melted.  Watch the tortilla edges very carefully – they wait ’til they think you’re not looking then hurriedly burn themselves.  Remove from grill, add beef and veg, top with soured cream and fire-roasted chillies, roll, cut and eat.  Simples.Fish and chipsWednesday: Using my unholy influence* upon Barn, I created in him a desire for fish ‘n’ chips that was so strong he was unable to resist stopping off on the way back from the gym to pick some up.  Mwahahaha!

The batter on the fish was superb – crispy, fresh and not harbouring oil wells.  The chips were top notch and the mushy peas finished it off nicely.  Eaten straight from the paper watching trash TV this was a truly satisfying meal.

* Until now you’ve probably been blissfully unaware that I am, apparently, the anti-Christ.  I have been publicly denounced as such by a someone ‘in the know’.  I’ll tell you the story if you ask me to ;-).

Continue reading