Mar 2010
A quick Tescos wtf
What a great deal

Another great deal at Tesco... (Clicky bigness)

Jan 2010

Cassoulet is a wonderful thing. It’s a beautifully simple and tasty French dish that reminds me of family holidays in Frejus. Unfortunately it’s not a pretty dish. The might that is flickr can’t take a nice picture of it. It’s not surprising, since it’s basically beans and fatty meat in a tomato sauce. It’s like posh sausage and beans…

I don’t think I’ve ever made two batches that are the same. It’s beans, meat and sauce after all. So… here’s the one that we just spent the last two days eating…

  • 1 x 5.5 litre slow cooker
  • A huuuge number of beans. Traditionally Haricot beans but the ones we get in the UK are tiny, so…
    • 3 x tins Butter beans (Lima beans?), 260g drained
    • 2 x tins Haricot beans, 290g drained
    • 1 x tins Black beans, 260g drained
  • A crapload of meat, preferably fatty. Confit of duck is traditional but expensive, so…
    • 200g paprika spiced sausages (not an air dried Chorizo, but a fresh Chorizo or Merguez type)
    • 700g pork belly rashers
    • 2 big duck breasts (gresingham duck ftw)
  • Then some tomato type sauce
    • 2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
    • 4 x tbsp tomato puree
    • 1/2 litre of vegetable stock
    • couple of glasses of wine (red, white, whatever… I tend to use cheap port actually…)
    • couple of teaspoons of paprika (I heart La Chinata smoked paprika)
    • two bundles of bouquet garni
    • a couple of bay leaves


Brown the sausages. Cut them into 2 inch lengths.

Fry the belly slices fat side down ’til it crisps up a bit, then seal the sides. Cut into 2 inch lengths.

Fry the duck, fat side down ’til it crisps, then seal the sides and cut into 3/4 inch thick slices.

Throw it all into the slow cooker.

Wash all the beans in fresh water. Throw them into the slow cooker.

Take all the sauce items and throw then in too.

Go to bed.

When you wake up, go to the bathroom, get dressed, turn on the slow cooker, go to work.

Come home with a stick of French bread and eat it with hot cassoulet.

This is Christmas to me. Sod the turkey, stuffing, mince pies or Christmas pudding. Every year my grandmother would make a dozen deserts. Curd cake, lemon freezer cake (coming soon), raspberry bomb (maybe coming soon) and chocolate chestnut were my favourites…

15.5oz / 440g can of unsweetened chestnut puree
6oz / 175g unsalted butter
4oz / 115g castor sugar
8oz / 230g plain chocolate (75% works well)
2 tbsp brandy

Melt chocolate over simmering water.

Beat butter in a bowl ’til creamy. Add sugar and beat it ’til light & fluffy. Add chestnut puree and beat it until thoroughly mixed.

Add melted chocolate and brandy. Mix thoroughly.

Get a 2lb loaf tin. Display just enough incompetence that your wife lines the tin with greaseproof and rub with butter.

Pour the whole lot in the tin, put some more paper on top, put some foil over the whole lot and stick it in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Give the bowl & spatula to wife to clean as apology…

In unrelated news, while searching Flickr for a picture, I discovered this. Why did no-one tell me about this…?

Oct 2009
Chai Syrup

Chai Latte,
by House Of Sims under Creative Commons

There’s one thing that Starbucks has done that will forever benefit the world – it introduced me to the wonders of Chai Lattes. Okay… maybe that doesn’t benefit the entire world…

So, you’ll need:

  • 6 cups water
  • 6 good quality black tea bags (but nothing ‘scented’ like Earl Grey)
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon
  • a dozen cloves
  • ‘some’ grated ginger (accurate quantities are for the soft :) )
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 10 cardemom pods
  • ‘some’ honey (Last time I added a frightening 10 tbps of lime blossom honey, which seemed about right)
  • 6tbsp vanilla essence (and don’t look at the price label)

Following the tradition of easy ‘recipes’:

  • Put the water in a pan and bring to the boil
  • Throw the teabags in
  • After 5 minutes or so, add everything but the vanilla
  • Simmer (and stir) for half an hour
  • Hook everything out and add the vanilla
  • Leave to cool

Use to taste, but I’ve been adding 3tbsp to a pint of milk for chilled lattes. If you’re making it hot then you may want slightly more syrup, but you may want to cut down on the honey (because cold food tastes less sweet than hot).

There are times when I wonder what the hell I’m thinking. Deciding to cook a cake for the first time would be one of those times. Choosing to make it brownies would make it worse. You can guess that using a Portuguese recipe didn’t convince me it was any more sane an idea.

Still, if I can make it work, I’m guessing anyone can…

2/3 cup (115g) butter, chopped
6 ounces (170g) chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of G&B 70% and G&B Butterscotch)
1/4 cup (25g) good quality cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup (200g) sugar (I prefer an unrefined caster or demerara sugar)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) plain flour
1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

Heat the oven to 180c.

Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with non-stick baking parchment with two strips at right angles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Use a bain marie to melt the butter and chocolate.

Remove from heat and use an electric whisk to whisk in the cocoa. Then do the same with the eggs, one by one, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, and the flour. [I've been told that I should have used a hand whisk to make them lighter - I have no idea if this is true, but they tasted good attacked by a 'leccie whisk...]

Pour half the tasty gloop in the pan, then drop dollops of the dulche all over the pan. Use a knife to smooth it across pan, not getting too close to the edges. Then pour the rest of the mixture across the top.

Bake for 35 to 40 min.

The brownies are done when the centre has a slight crust and just starts to feel firm. Without letting the brownies cool, use the parchment to lift the brownies out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.

During one of our health kicks, we bought a collection of recipe books focusing on Mediterranean cookery. One of them is the enticingly named “Greek Vegan Cookbook”. Sadly, it’s not about cooking Greek vegans.

At some point, the book made it upstairs and hid itself under the bed. Presumably someone, consciously or not, decided to hide it.

Buffy made her opinion known much more clearly.

Placed delicately on top of the cookbook this morning was a freshly slaughtered blackbird…

May 2009
Cuban Meatloaf

Once again, this is ‘Cuban’ with quote marks around it, because I’m told that this is about as Cuban as a dollar bill. It’s a great meatloaf that I make in a 1kg loaf for just two people because it makes a damned fine cold meat.

900g minced pork
1 large onion
4tsp tabasco sauce (I prefer chipotle tabasco)
75g fresh breadcrumbs
1 beaten egg
salt and pepper

2 tbsp mustard powder
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp golden rum
1 cup water

Mix the pork, onion, chilli sauce, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper together and make it into a loaf shape in a baking tin.

Mix the rest of it together in a jug and pour it over the top.

Cook it for 1 1/2 hours at 180c. Baste it with the sauce on a regular basis.

Another simple one…

May 2009
Lazy Cherry Granita

This is the laziest ‘recipe’ you’ll ever find here…

Take a few cups of frozen cherries and put them in a blender with a shot of Amaretto, a couple of teaspoons of ground almonds, and a little soft brown sugar (depending on how sweet the cherries are).

Blend them til it goes relatively smooth and then stick them back in the freezer for a while. Stir it a bit. Freeze it a bit longer…

May 2009

Image of someone else’s idea of a Coleslaw,
by penmachine under Creative Commons

Despite my best intentions, it would appear that I’m filling this with stupidly simple recipes. Today, we have a coleslaw recipe that is so simple that I’ve never bothered to write it down. A recipe that I tend to make in large enough quantities that there’s enough for dinner, lunch and then the next dinner. Hohum…

  • 1/4 head red cabbage
  • 1/4 head white cabbage
  • handful of radishes
  • 2-3 large shallots
  • 1 large carrot
  • half cup very low fat mayonnaise
  • juice 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper
  • Some olive oil

Now, this gets complicated, so try to keep up…

Put all of the vegetables through the shredding bit of your food processor. Or get handy with a big knife. Either way, you want to make sure that everything is sliced up really thinly. Stir it all about. Add the juice, a glug of oil, some salt and pepper, and the mayonnaise. The exact amount will vary depending on your personal tastes and how thinly you’ve cut the veggies. The idea is to leave a layer of mayo across the veggies that’s so thin it’s almost invisible but still sticks them together…

Complex eh?

There’s probably nothing better with some good blue steak and baby new potatoes…

Image of someone else’s idea of a Cuban sandwich, by rdpeyton under Creative Commons

There is a thing called a Cuban sandwich. It’s a delicacy that involves Cuban bread, pig, pickles and seven kinds of wonderful. The problem is that you can’t get it in the UK. We don’t have the bread. The pickles are somehow different and the cheese is just simply not the same.

So what we have left is a sandwich that’s about as Cuban as I am. Thankfully, however, it’s made from things that are available in the UK. Just don’t feed it to a Cuban. They’ll probably cry.

It’s a bit grand to call this a recipe, so we’ll dispense with the ingredients list…

  • Get yourself some bread that’s somewhere along the lines of a panini. If you can do it with sourdough then all the better. Slice it in half, lengthways.
  • Butter one half. For a good Cuban sandwich add some good thick ham and some thick cut roast pork or a little hog roast meat. Or, if we’re already too Cuban for you, maybe some roast chicken instead of pork.
  • Put on some sliced cheese. Jarlsburg seems to work well. As does Port Salut. Good Cuban cheeses…
  • Add sliced dill pickle. Or pickled cucumber. Or gerkin. Or whatever the hell you call them in your part of the world.
  • Then, on the other half of the bread, you should smear some of that travesty that is American Mustard. You know, that bright yellow crap that is as spicy as yoghurt. Alternatively you could do as I do and use some Branston Lime and Chilli Mayonnaise…
  • Put it together and stick it on a panini grill. Or wedge it in a Foreman grill. Or stick it in a fryingpan and hit it with a hammer. Whatever your preferred method it should end up thinner and warm, with the cheese going melty.
  • Eat.
Apr 2009

Image by Gret@Lorenz under Creative Commons

Churros have been made and they were good. They were so good that it’s time to put the recipe up here for you and for me. Yay for the internets – I can publish things for you guys and make sure I don’t lose things at the same time…

  • 240ml water
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 75g butter
  • 160g white flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Get some oil up to about 190°c in the deep fat frier or frying pan.

Put the water, sugar, salt and butter in a decent sized pan and get it boiling. The butter has to melt.

Remove it from the heat and stir in the flour. Keep mixing it until it’s solid.

Beat the eggs and add the vanilla. Mix them in to the buttery floury mixture.

Once it’s gone back to being solid again, put it in to a biscuit press and squeeze it into the hot fat.

Let them fry until they look like the ones in the picture (turning part way if you need to), hook them out and let them drain a little before you drop them in the mixture of cinnamon and icing sugar that you have.

You can only cook a few at a time, so try not to eat one batch before the next batch is cooked. If you do then you’ll have no idea how many you made and will be unable to tell your adoring web fans how many this lot makes. I’ll just say that GB and I didn’t eat any dinner after stuffing our faces… :)

Apr 2009
Welcome to Sodium

Every second a new blog is started1. This is the blog for this second…

Anything from this point onwards has been brought over from a different site. Unfortunately comments haven’t come over with them, so the sparkling wit my words generate isn’t here. Unless commenters are as bored as I was when I started the transfer.

For the record “Sodium Lights The Horizon” means nothing. It was a random phrase that came from a random conversation. It seems strangely lyrical but google returned zero hits on the phrase. Simple as that…

1 – I may have made that up. But you believed it, didn’t you…?

Sep 2008
An inability to cook

I now know how it feels to be old and confused by technology. I have now had the equivalent of the stereotypical hour of trying to set the video recorder just to be humiliated by the 5 year old setting it in seconds.

I tried to make pastry last night.

Okay, that’s a bit grand. I tried to roll out a block of ready made pastry so that I could line a pie dish. And I failed. I ended up with a wedge of pastry, ripped into shreds and half wrapped around the rolling pin.

Five minutes later GB has turned it into a thin sliver of pastry that filled a pie dish.

I poured in some beans to blind bake with, and put it in the oven at the prescribed temperature.

15 minutes later, the top of the pie crust is black and the beans are welded to the bottom of the raw pastry case.

It’s fecking Voodoo, I tells you…