nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
My new cheese grater has exacted its appointed tribute. None can withstand the eternal maw.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I am delighted to be able to confirm that pickled onions count as one of one's 5-a-day.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I went to bed. I got up early. I got to work a early (for me). I wrote my paper. Then there was Friday cake. I can’t imagine that I’m going to get anything productive done with the rest of the day, but fortunately I have meetings to attend so I probably won’t have to. It is sunny outside and I am going to go for a walk. I think that I might also buy a Euromillions ticket...

Meanwhile, ahead of my holiday a week on Sunday, Norway not only has nice weather, but is apparently having a price war on traditional Easter products such as hotdogs, Norwegian KitKats*, and oranges**, those essential components of a day tour on the fells.

*Kvikk Lunsj, as explained here. They are indeed very nice, and I assume that the slightly higher salt content actually makes them better for you if you're eating them on an active trip.

**The skins of which are, in one area, ritually discarded on the branches of a particular tree to the extent that it is called Appelsintreet on the Ordnance Survey (equivalent) map. Littering as culture!

ETA: At 3:20pm on Friday afternoon I have received a meeting from someone I am meeting at 4pm on Monday, and who I managed to fit in as my fourth meeting of the day, mentioning briefly what we are actually going to be talking about and saying cheerily that hopefully I will be able to reflect on these subjects in advance of the meeting. Well no, I won't. I will print off the generic document we have, and I will answer everything else off the top of my head, because I am sure as hell not spending the weekend on it.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I have achieved sloe jelly. It is very purple and my kitchen is not, which counts as a success. It also tastes nice, and thus is not a total waste of time, sugar, and electricity. As an added bonus, it forced me to hunt through my fridge for extra jam jars and chuck out stuff that ought to have been chucked out some time ago. No more does the jar of out-of-date grated horseradish haunt the fridge door! On the other hand, though the colour is lovely, the texture good, and the taste has just the right hint of the ability of sloes to suck every particle of moisture from your mouth, there's no denying that ultimately wild hedgerow fruits taste pretty similar once preserved. If I do it again, I think I'll look at adding some sort of spice for additional flavour.

Pictures on LJ.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Did you ever look at a saucepan of broccoli and think "What that needs is some cream"? Me neither. And yet my pot of extra-thick double cream from Sainsbury's has a picture on the lid of broccoli covered in what is presumably cream.

I can only imagine that this is an attempt to make extra-thick double cream healthy by association by presenting some sort of "broccoli cheese" dish as one of one's five-a-day. If so, it is a complete failure, and only serves to make cream disgusting by association. I like cream. I like broccoli. I am willing to stand up for the pleasant taste and the health-giving properties of each. But broccoli and cream can only be an abomination.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I had a very enjoyable day yesterday meeting a friend in London and going to Simpson's in the Strand for lunch, followed by the Fashion on the Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.

Simpson's is the restaurant that features in Murder Must Advertise as the location to which hapless Willis tracks Wimsey and Pamela Dean, where he eats mutton and is miserable. It traditionally serves a lot of roast meat. And other things, but mostly roast meat. Some might question the wisdom of arranging to eat a large amount of roast beef at lunchtime on a hot July day in central London, but as the place is air conditioned, this was in fact very easy to do. It was a lot of fun, and not only was the beef (and roast potatoes, horseradish etc,) excellent, but so were the puddings.

Thence to the IWM's exhibition space, which was not air conditioned, and the warmth of which could not simply be put down to the lunch. The exhibition, on clothing during WWII, was fascinating, though (thanks to [personal profile] white_hart for alerting me to its existence), and we agreed that the WRNS definitely had the best uniform, and that there was quite a bit of the Utility clothing that we'd actually purchase if Marks and Spencer's did it as a special line. I have some bits of clothing alterations to do that I have been putting off*; perhaps I should watch Enigma and re-enact 'Make Do and Mend'.

*I hate alterations. They are often quite tricky and you don't even get anything new.
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
I can cook (reasonably) complicated things if I want to. But if I choose to cook complicated things, I expect them to be worth the effort. My Home Ec teacher was quite right back in the late 80s that frozen puff pastry is as good as something you'll make at home. And I speak as someone who is good at pastry.

It was as I scraped out the hairy choke bit of a globe artichoke bought on a whim in the market that I remembered (a) that the artichoke is a member of the thistle family, and (b) the evening on a French campsite, on my first holiday abroad, on which my parents cooked their first globe artichoke and came to the conclusion that it was an almost totally pointless activity. I have now eaten my artichoke, and it was very nice, but not sufficiently nicer than the ones in jars to justify the effort on a regular basis. A novelty it shall remain.

Delia Smith's fast-roast chicken, on the other hand - cooked in only 5 minutes longer than an artichoke takes - remains delicious, easy, and reliable.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Following a request, this is the menu served by Babette at the famous feast in Berlevaag (short story*) and Nørre Vosborg (film), possibly the bleakest place in literature short of Scott's South Pole. We decided that the spirit was what really mattered. I shall spare you the lines from the film uttered at key moments.


Turtle soup

Turtle is not available to the UK domestic chef. We therefore cast around for substitutes. Mock turtle soup involves boiling a calf's head. My mother vetoed lobster bisque, which she dislikes (I wish I'd had the chance!). Several people vetoed crab. We therefore compromised on salmon and dill ravioli (purchased). I had a symbolic glass of Amontillado earlier.

Blini Demidoff

Blinis with sour cream and caviar. No, of course it wasn't real sturgeon black caviar!

Caille en Sarcophage

According to people on the internet who know more about French cooking than I, these little boneless quails in pastry baskets are stuffed with foie gras and black truffles, and served with sauce Périgueux. My mother actually has a recipe for sauce Périgueux. We decided, however, that the spirit of the thing required the quails in their baskets, with head, and that the sauce/stuffing was up to the circumstances concerned. We went for boneless quails** stuffed with chestnut, mushroom and bacon stuffing, in a cherry sauce, and I modelled the heads out of shortcrust pastry, observing as I went along how key features like peppercorn eyes make something that looks nothing like a quail's head look exactly like a quail's head. I'd invoke Umberto Eco, but I drove home today.

Chicory and walnut salad

Easy! We also added a second salad, of pomegranate, orange, and walnut.

Cheese and Fruit

Nowadays one can buy tropical fruits in December from Sainsbury's. Though fruit-wise you should probably concentrate on the grapes/dates/fig end of things. Cheese to taste, but do include a blue one.


Turns out to be incredibly easy to make, though it helps if your mother doesn't discover that she has lost her debit card as she is in the act of paying for a ring mould at Lakeland. Fortunately it later turned out that she had left it in the machine, which had eaten it, but it rather put paid to our trip to Harrogate. In any case, savarin takes time, as you have to leave the dough to prove twice, but it is easy and looks good filled with unseasonal fruits. In lieu of a rum sauce, which no-one wanted, we had an orange syrup with Malvasia***.


So there you go. It took a fair amount of time, but was not otherwise difficult for a family cook who can put Christmas dinner on the table without stressing for the nation of their choice. For one thing, there are relatively few issues of acute timing. We split up the courses between 4 for the sake of not spending all day in the kitchen (it was a surprise for persons 5+6, my sister and brother-in-law who came down that day), and though I wouldn't serve the whole lot up for a dinner party unless I really liked the people involved, none of the individual courses was particularly onerous, at least if, like us, you invoked the spirit and not the vast quantities of truffles. And champagne, which we decided just to have as an apertif. The singing of Danish psalms in their subtitled English versions is optional.

*For anyone who is not familiar with the film: HIRE IT NOW, although not, and I cannot stress this strongly enough for those who live in the USA, in the dubbed version. I have no idea what non-English dubs are like. The film is based on the story by Isak Dinesen first published in the Ladies Home Journal (USA) as Dineksen's response to a bet that she couldn't publish a magazine story on the meaning of art. It was subsequently republished in the collection Anecdotes of Destiny. It is wonderful. It is also responsible for a fondly-remembered moment of classroom triumph on my part, when watching it the week before Christmas in my Danish language class in Odense. As General Löwenhielm gave his speech (in Swedish, we were watching with Danish subtitles) my neighbour turned to me and said, "What is he saying?" My reply: "Mercy and truth are met together. Righteousness and peace are met together. Man, in his weakness and shortsightness, believe he must make a choice here in life". Etc. Cue stunned silence. I had discovered at the start of the film-showing that I had seen it so often I had memorised the subtitles. I admitted this - at the end of the film.

**If you can't get boneless quails locally - central Oxford is light on bakers, but rich in butchers - and I believe that you can bone them yourself. Personally, I'd just leave the bones to the diners.

***Present for parents from Lipari, where there has recently been a murder. Who'd have thought Sicily had a lower murder rate than the Faeroes? I had Baba aux Malavasie from a wonderful cake shop in Lipari town. Actually, I had it twice, as the first time I took a bite and accidentally dropped it in the gutter.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
One of many great things about my middle school was its enthusiastic approach to that suite of lessons that includes under art, woodwork, and home economics (i.e. sewing and cookery), in which we spent a great deal of time doing things, and none at all designing packaging and such things that seem now to be called “design and technology”. As a result of which I can theoretically use an exciting range of nasty electrical saws and drills (not that I often have occasion to), and everyone in the class could sew on a button and turn up a hem. I can also make pastry. We spent an entire half-term on pastry and bread (the previous two years were “ensuring all ten year olds can feed themselves”, followed by “ensuring all eleven year olds can cook for a family”). My sisters, who attended the rather more carefully socially selected CofE school, learnt to ice a swiss roll. They left after two years in order not to die of boredom.

Anyway, we made pastry. Our teacher was a splendid woman who worked part-time and played golf on her days off, and she believed that we should all be able to make shortcrust pastry, and do it properly. We made shortcrust pastry for three weeks. So it is directly thanks to her that I finally got round last night to embarking upon recreating the chocolate mince pies that I bought a couple of years ago. And so I give you:

Chocolate mince pies )


nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

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