Archive for August, 2009

I’m having great fun today reading the Pioneer Woman blog – she’s a fab writer and takes great pics of food. I can’t wait to try some of her recipes – they sound seriously lush. But some of them are just insane. The butter! The weird processed food in tins! But the prize for the weirdest idea goes to this.

Any other contenders?


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SDOFS – day 7: Skirt*

No, I haven’t been reduced by boredom, poverty and loneliness to eating my own clothing, nor developed Pica**.


Eek – why do my food photos look so shockingly 70s? Is not gud.

Skirt – or onglet, as it’s known in France and poncy London restaurants – is actually the diaphragm of the cow. It’s a hard-working muscle, and therefore benefits from either very brief, hot cooking or very long, slow cooking, and a good rest afterwards. I found out the other day, when asking for it at the meat stall at the lovely Oval farmers’ market (about which more in a future post) that when you butcher a cow, you get two of most things – front legs, back legs, shoulders, rumps, sets of ribs and so forth – but obviously only one heart, liver and (you guessed it) skirt. Makes sense, but still, who knew?

And it’s cheap. Cheap, cheapity cheap. I paid £2.25 or so for more than 300g, which for steak that you’re going to eat as steak is damn good going, and doubtless explains its recent rash of popularity in London and omnipresence as steak-frites in Paris.

So. I’m going to cook it quickly in a hot pan, after trimming away the raggedy edges which will make a sandwich another day. The veg drawer is calling with its wilting contents, so I’ll have roast cherry tomatoes, butternut squash and garlic, some creamed spinach and saute potatoes – and heaps of mustard.

Ah, the joy of saute potatoes! I’ve never been much of a potato fan. Years of my mum’s steamed potatoes quelled my enthusiasm rather, and chips are lovely, but I really can’t be bothered to make them at home. Roasties are great, but not something I’d make for just me. But small spuds, par-boiled, halved and then cooked slowly in butter with their cut sides on the heat until they develop a deep golden crust, are dead easy and lovely.

The spinach I’ll make the cheat’s way. My sister Emma’s method is the very best (although not even slightly authentic). She wilts the spinach, squeezes it dry and chops it finely before reheating with cream, butter and a little e-number-rich white onion soup powder to season and thicken it. Sadly this useful (although no doubt thoroughly toxic) product isn’t easily available here, so I’ll use a dab of Philly cheese and some nutmeg. Never let it be said that I don’t give you porn food.

I’ll also deglaze the steak pan with red wine, season and add a tad of thyme and splash that over the steak.

Now I just need to wait until I’m hungry. Too many pistachio nuts while watching X-Factor. Danyl to win, yes? And that rather fetching multi-coloured dress Cheryl was wearing in the London round? I bought it from Net-a-Porter and sent it back because it did nothing for me. You did need to know this***.

* Warning: this post contains lame jokes

** Oops, sorry, too late

*** But a fashun theme was introduced, so there

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SDOFS – day 6: Pizza

Fast food. Love it, love it, love it! Shame it’s all so nasty. So I thought I’d attempt to make a speedy pizza that was cheap, gratifyingly lacking in essential nutrients, and tasted nice.

I started off with a value pizza base from Sainsbuggers.

pizza 1

Actually, I do quite often make my own pizza bases, but I only got home from yoga at 9pm and there was so no time to faff about with proving. It looked pretty foul, but hey – 99p?

It was the work of moments to slap some red onion, chopped garlic, surprisingly good salami (Sainsbuggers’ finest) slightly sad black mushrooms, green pepper, olives and ripped up mozzarella on to the base.

pizza 2

Oven up to max, glass of wine… Intertubes.

Gosh, I hate my oven. Not only did the previous owners of my flat clean it over-zealously so all its markings have rubbed off and you can’t tell what you’re doing or at what temperature, but it’s got some stupid safety feature that makes it turn itself off when it gets too hot, ie hot enough to cook decent pizza. Smeg by name, smeg by nature, imo.

Eventually got it decently hot, whacked the pizza in for ten minutes.

Now, a word of advice here. My friend Nick, who knows absolutely everything about baking bread and hunts his own wild yeast and everything (no, really he does) has a custom-cut piece of slate that goes into his oven and reaches lava-like temperatures to produce the optimum crisp base. Those of us who take the process less srsly can achieve the same effect by placing the pizza at the top of the oven for the first half of its cooking time to get the toppings cooking, then move it on its metal tray down to the oven floor to blast the base from beneath. Clever, no?

Out it came.

pizza 3

Many is the time I’ve had to hoink great swathes of skin off the top of my mouth following over-enthusiastic consumption of hot cheese, so I let this cool before salting, peppering, Tabascoing and sampling it. Hmmmm. The base was a bit dry and a bit thick – not the doughnut-like horror you get at Pizza Hut, but not terrible. My toppings were good. It was not bad, for crap food.

When I’d finished, I went and perused the Col’Cacchio’s menu, and had a little cry.

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Curse you, faceless denizens of the Intertubes. I was all set to have something worthy for supper tonight, possibly using up more of the green beans (I think they may be breeding in the vegetable drawer). And then someone mentioned haloumi. They said they roast it. So of course, this had to be tried. I decided to do loads of roast veg (butternut squash, red onion, red and green pepper and whole garlic cloves, with broccoli and cherry tomatoes added later on, together with the haloumi). All lightly coated before roasting in olive oil, a bit of BV, thyme, lemon juice and ras el hanout. And a couple of dried chillies too, because that’s how I roll. So far, so free of disaster.

haloumi 1

After this it all went a bit pear-shaped

Hmmm. I can’t remember who it was who said about roasting haloumi, but may your green beans raise entire extended families in your fridge and your avocadoes progress from rock-hard to black and mushy in seconds, and your local fishmonger close down. It really, really isn’t a very good idea. The cheese doesn’t develop the crisp outside it does when fried or grilled, and it sticks to the tin. Even the special hard-anodised Mermaid tin. I don’t recommend it at all. The vegetables were nice though.

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SDOFS – day 4: Stir-fry

I know, I know – dullity dull McDull. But what could I do? My fridge was over-run with vegetables that Needed Using Up, and stir-fry is peerless when it comes to this banal but necessary function.

stirfry 1

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy though. All that chopping! Especially of vegetables that Need Using Up precisely because they’re such a bore to prepare I’ve been in denial about their existence (yes, green beans, I am looking at you). So I made stir-fry. With pork. And brown rice. It was very nice.

stirfry 2

There was an awful lot of it – enough for the next day’s lunch. Which was almost as nice. And lunch the following day, which was significantly less nice. Still, its work is done. Oval Epicure 1, Courgettes 0. In your face, slightly limp broccoli. Bite me, shrivelled mushrooms.

Excuse me while I go and have a little lie-down.

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SDOFS – day 3: Fishcakes

fishcakes 2

Every cook has a dirty porn food secret. For some, it’s that package of Findus Crispy Pancakes (don’t ask me, I’m South African and have no idea what they are) lurking in the freezer; for others, it’s a sneaky Whopper en route home from a night out (my fabulous friend Eleanor has on occasion been known to remember such transgressions only in the cold light of day, when she checks her camera and is confronted with the evidence). And Sian, a qualified nutritional therapist, swears by Pot Noodles a shot of wheatgrass juice, grated pawpaw and pumpkin seeds as a hangover cure.

I love tinned salmon.


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SDOFS – day 2: Eggy chiz

eggy chiz

As any runner will tell you (at great length and in graphic detail, and possibly without your even having to ask), bad runs happen to good people. On Sunday I was the victim of just such a Bad Run. It reached its acme of horrendousness in the MacDonalds on the South Bank, where I was forced to go to use the Facilities. My god – the horror! Why on earth does anyone, on a beautiful summer’s evening in a city of limitless gastronomic possibilities, choose to spend time in an stifling basement so full of fat people you can barely move, and reeking of ersatz fries? Yuk, yuk, yuk. The ten minutes or so I was forced to spend there, queuing for the loo, were perhaps the longest of my life. But I must do a quick shout-out for the man whose job it is to make sure that feckless non-customers like me don’t get access to this subterranean hell-hole, but heeded my desperate pleas. Fanks, hey.

To add injury to insult, I got a blister on my foot.

So you can imagine that I was in dire need of comfort food, but disinclined to spend time slaving over a hot anything. Occasions like this call for eggy chiz. Think Welsh rarebit with a pared-down ingredients list, or scrambled eggs without all that pesky stirring, or toasted cheese with an added dimension of golden puffiness. It’s lovely, and my public will be glad to know that it’s a cracking hangover cure too.

You need to grate a load of strong cheddar cheese while cooking the first side of your toast under the grill. Add an egg, a splash of Lea & Perrins, a dab of mustard, pepper and a little salt and mix it all together. Pile the resulting stiffish paste on to the untoasted side of your bread and pop it back uunder the grill, lower down this time so it gets a chance to colour and rise a bit without burning. Sprinkle with tabasco sauce and consume with caution – this is hot stuff.

I served mine with a few olives and cherry tomatoes as a vague nod to healthfulness, and a generous portion of self-pity.

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