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Monthly Archives: February 2012

26th February: Slow Roasted Belly Pork

I have a cunning plan. When my kids reach teen age, I am going to start my sleep torture revenge. I will stroll into their rooms at irregular intervals each and every night. Sometimes I will just scream for no apparent reason. Other times I will just creep them out by standing at the foot of their beds until they awake with a start. My favourite will be to just pretend it’s the morning and demand that they play with me. Ha ha ha!

My baby daughter is an evil mastermind. She would be an asset at Guantanamo Bay. I truly believe she could bring ANYONE to their knees, weeping with fatigue.

You’d think, third time round, we might have got it cracked. Erm…no. Each child has been progressively more sleep-proof than the last. During the past four or so years, Me and He have spent more time watching ITV Nightscreen with a baby on our lap than we have cosily spooning in the marital boudoir. Hands Down. No contest.

She was up to her antics again last night. Today was sloooooow going.

A meal then, to match the pace of the day. I’d bought a lovely looking piece of belly pork earlier in the week. I decided on a composite of a few recipes, my main priority is ensuring a 100% crackle on it. Crackling is of high priority in my kitchen. No crackling = fury. Second place is amazing gravy. Bad gravy would also make me furious. Maybe it’s just the sleep deprivation….

I’m not sure Anthony Worrel-Thompson is my kind of fella. Although I must say, I’m slightly more intrigued by him since his recent shoplifting episode. However, since i followed his top tips for good crackling, I’ve had a pretty perfect strike rate.

Score the fat, dry with kitchen roll. Rub table salt into the crevices, then sea salt Over the whole skin. I like salt. Can you tell?

I give it 30mins at full whack, then remove it from the tray. I make a trivet of veg: carrots, celery, garlic, leek, rosemary. Then sit the pork back on top. Add a few slugs of Marsala wine and some stock before returning the whole lot to the oven for 2 hours.

When the time is up, I rest the meat and make the gravy by pouring the meat juice into a pan. I squish the pan veggies through a sieve into the the gravy. Immense. 100% crackling too, you’ll be relieved to hear. Fanks Anthony.

We’ve already had one little night prowler since I started writing. A looong night ahead me’thinks. At least I have the memory of a pretty perfect tea to sustain me. Plus, of course, my plans for the perfect revenge in a few short years. Salty perfection (for me at least) 10/10.

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23rd February: Salmon and Ssshpinach Parcels

Me and He have been together a looong time. Large swathes of that time have been spent on campsites/ferries/ski-lifts (we’ve had a charmed life!), where we’ve had to ‘pass the time on’ as He would say. We invent silly games and quizzes. Our favourite, ‘Guess how I died’ was a high point.

On a particularly dull day, we did a quiz containing questions such as: ‘What’s your favourite tinned soup?’ ‘What’s your favourite dried pulse?’ and, His favourite, ‘What’s your favourite meat/condiment combo?’…. Roast Beef and Horseradish as it goes. How the evenings fly by!

So, I hear you ask, what’s my favourite frozen vegetable? Spinach, most definitely spinach.

My 2 year old has issues with vegetables. I have become the dragon warrior of veggie disguise – more of that later. Frozen spinach comes in those handy little cubes. Don’t tell my kids but I throw them into EVERYTHING. The fusspot doesn’t seem to have noticed. We have Shrek Macaroni Cheese, Shrek Moussaka, Shrek Fish Pie….you get the picture…

Today was a beautiful spring-like day. After a long winter and last week’s plague confinement, I was literally gambolling around the village. What to make for tea?? The weather said BBQ, but my winter-conditioned body said carbs. I decided to go with a firm favourite in our house and made some cute little salmon pasties.

A couple of salmon fillets, baked, then mixed into mashed potato. Add butter, cream cheese, cheddar, lemon zest and, you guessed it, some trusty spinach. Squished into some ready rolled puff pastry and baked for 20 mins. For the grown ups I add spring onions and parsley too.

As the fusspot unwittingly wolfs down the spinachy goodness, I stifle my evil villain laugh. 8/10. Mua ha ha.

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21st February: Dino Ribs

My boys, especially the biggest one, are currently obsessed with Dinosaurs. Not just a little bit interested, but quite obsessed. The big one absorbs dino-based facts like a sponge, and not just your common or garden T-Rex or Diplodocus. I’m talking Velociraptors, Epidexipteryx, Carcharodontosaurus…..yup, me neither.

The big one has been known to be a bit of a monkey. He’s not one that sits and colours in benignly, or engages in pleasant chit chat with pensioners. The opposite has been known to occur in fact. “How are you doing little laddy?”…” you’re a poohead” comes the response. Moments like these are common features of my life these days. I blame the mother.

Libraries are hell. Ours has a lovely story train. My boys swing from it like chimpanzees, whilst smug parents of those pallid, ‘indoorsy’ kids look on horrified. We normally last about 4 minutes before I flee with a scamp under each arm. An audible sigh of relief can be heard on our departure. Ssssssshhhhhh.

One such trip was shaping up to be true to form. The big one was examining the Dinosaur section. I was hanging out at the colouring table with some pallid kids and the 2 year old, when he strolled over with a book. “Mum, look, it’s a Brachiosaurus”. The book was indeed entitled “Brachiosaurus”. Had he learnt to read by osmosis? “How can you tell darling?” asks I. “Silly mum, look what he’s eating. Rocks….to aid digestion”. Let me tell you it took all my strength not to jump up and shout “IN YOUR FACE!!” at a particularly smug mum who’d given us the eye. What can I say? The boy’s clearly a genius.

To cooking. I come from a long line of unapologetic carnivores. My nan, nana, dad then me. Now my boys. Couple that with the dino obsession and ribs have become a firm favourite. Bonus, since they’re cheap as chips and easy to prepare.

This time I went with my house marinade. Equal parts Worcester sauce, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and honey, since you’re asking. Bunged into a foil-lined roasting tray (DO NOT FORGET THE FOIL PEOPLE!), cooked on high for 25 mins. This time served with noodles (for he who loves beige), and stir-fried veg – cos we probably ought to.

Happy carnivores all round. A resounding 9/10. RAAAAH!

19th February: Texas Potroast

I’m new to this blogging lark. Forgive me. I’ve never even written a diary. Well, I did briefly when I was 12 but very rapidly bored myself with my angsty ramblings. I digress.

I fancied writing something. I currently spend a LOT of time with pre-school aged children. They are ace. However, occasionally I yearn to communicate with a different audience. Possibly even with intelligent adults of a similar age. Here goes… I thought I’d try and loosely base my ramblings around a central theme. For me this must be cooking. I love cooking. I do an awful lot of it too. I have 3 tiny children, and one strapping man, to nourish on a daily basis.

In semi-homage to my favourite recipe book, The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater, I am going to attempt to record a calendar year of my culinary endeavours. Not on a daily basis, don’t panic! Just some of the more noteworthy ones.

I hope you enjoy reading it…

Texas Brisket a la Nigella

I was bleakly strolling around the supermarket yesterday looking for inspiration to put into my trolley. It’s no mean feat feeding this lot. Exhausting in fact. Added to the fact that this week has been possibly the most testing of my Mothering career to date. A mystery virus took down everyone but me. Raging fevers, hacking coughs and vomiting a go go. Good times.

So I was also trying to find something wholesome and hearty to build up the convalescing toddlers. I saw a beef brisket on offer. A memory of a Nigella recipe stirred and I decided to go for it.

I love Nigella. I realise she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but she is mine. I love her books and the fact that she loves the same stuff as me. Rare meat, chicken skin, butter, cream, cheese. Yum. I also find her more credible given that she has clearly had to cook for a family instead of food critics.

The recipe sounded odd. Awful in fact. Sit the beef on a bed of sliced onions. Add a potion of soy sauce, Worcester sauce, vinegar and er….coffee. Yes coffee. Bleurgh. It says something for how much I rate the woman that I decided to give it a go. I don’t even drink coffee. But, this was Nigella, she who introduced me to Coca Cola Ham, and that’s now our Christmas staple.

I cooked it on low for 3 hours. And the verdict? The beef was tasty and tender, the coffee had melted away leaving a rich smokey gravy. 4 out of 5 of us enjoyed it, but my two year old is generally appalled by anything that isn’t dry and beige so his opinion doesn’t count frankly. Sarah’s Score: 7/10.