Posts tagged ‘Food’

Jun 2012
Projects hindsight

Every time I decorate a room, I get about a quarter of the way finished, look back and think “Yeah, you know, this could work!” and suddenly realise that I should have taken a photo of how it was before I started.

It’s not just decorating, it’s anything where there’s a chance for a big reveal type before and after thing going on. I always forget the “before” shot. Decorating, gardening, ground clearance (which is what most of my gardening turned into), renovating and (in the case of at least one disgusting car) cleaning.

Today’s project that has no “before” shot is weight loss. Oh yeah, baby, I’m making two posts about it in a row! Read the rest of this entry »

It’s strange how addictions work. You know that you can change your life whenever you want. You could change your life today if you wanted. In fact, you will. Tomorrow…

You know that your addiction has a risk of harming you, but that’s in the future. It won’t be this one time that kills you though, so that’s okay. And then you get a wake up call, and it changes. It has to.

Thankfully, my wakeup call wasn’t something like liver disease or emphysema.

I’ve not been sleeping well for a while, so the doctor gave me some zopiclone and told me to come back in a month, where she’d consider sleep analysis.

One month-long shimmery time-passing effect later, I was back. I was sleeping better and could concentrate better. I was still snoring and suffering sleep anea, but I was at least rested. No side effects. Except I was pissing like a race horse.

If I’m honest, I already knew what the next question would be.

I live my life at a desk; could happy live off fatty meat and caffeine; and consider walking to the car to be exercise. If you sliced me in half length ways, either half of me would have a healthy BMI.

“Do you have any history of diabetes in your family…?”

Yes, yes I do. My grandfather had diabetes before he died (although that may have been cancer related) and my father died from a heart attack that’s believed to be diabetes related.

“How old was he…?”

When he died? Late fifties. When he was diagnosed diabetic and had his arterial replacement? Thirty something.

She wasn’t impressed.

Ten minutes later, the needle in my arm was drawing for a fasting glucose. 3 days later I was back in for a glucose tolerance test.

A healthy person scores less than 6 on either test. A diabetic would score about 6 on your fasting glucose and above 11 on your tolerance test.

I scored 7.4 and 9.6.

No matter what, it was time to face the truth. I needed to sort my shit.

The “Diabetic Nurse” (who isn’t diabetic, I checked) agreed. Except she phrased it better. I needed to lose weight. I needed to get my eating under control. I needed to do exercise. She wanted me to come back in 3 months to see how I was getting on and to see if I needed help getting my weight and my blood glucose down.

That was on the first of May this year. 4 weeks ago.

Back on the first of March, I weighed 154.5 kilos and had a BMI of 40.6.

Today, I weigh 144.5 kilos.

On 1st August (the 3 month mark) the trend line on my weight tracking app has me weighing 134.5 kilos with a BMI of 35.6. I’m not intending to disappoint it.

Assuming I can break free of StumbleUpon, the next few months may involve a lot of updates on health and food.

In the last dozen years or so the number of sandwich vans visiting office blocks and industrial parks has exploded to the extent that the park I work on is now visited by more sandwich vans than delivery vans.

So how, with such competition, can they all be so crap? Lets take a look at the vans that visit my particular building… Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 2010
A fantastic dinner

I think it’s fair to say that I love The Bridge in Waterbeach. It’s one of those places that never fails to entertain, although not always in a good way.

In the last half dozen times I’ve been there we’ve had a 45 minute wait for food despite the place only being half full; I’ve had my main course turn up before the starter; we’ve had sides missed out entirely, and; we’ve had only half the deserts turn up. Despite this, we go back because the food is good, the portions are generous and the prices are reasonable. And the pub itself is a nice place.

Tonight we did a dangerously grown up thing and booked in advance. This doesn’t happen in my world.

The reason was that they’re doing a limited run of ‘season’ food. Tonight was Game Season, with 4 small plates of food that was truly fantastic.

Wild Boar burger – when this arrived I think we both wondered what we’d walked into. The plate was mostly empty, with four chips forming a trestle, a burger the diameter of a HobNob, a fried egg and a slice of toasted bread. It looked like a comedy pretentious meal. Oh god, it was good though. The chips were right, the egg was runny yolked, and the burger was fantastically rich wild boar and caramelised onion cooked surprisingly light and moist.

Guinea Fowl and Chorizo – you know how all posh food has to be served in a ‘tower’? This was a tower. Sweet potato mash (possibly cold and then refried, like bubble & squeak), a slice of cooked chorizo sausage, guinea fowl breast, soul cream and a spot of chilli jam. Another fantastic combination of flavours.

Pheasant Chasseur – I have a love/hate relationship with pheasant. Even in the rose tinted days of my childhood, when pheasant was shot in the back garden and left to hang behind our kitchen door, pheasant was hit and miss. If you’ll pardon the phrase. This was the beautifully rich flavour I remember from good pheasant in a nice light sauce with little silverskin onions.

Venison – another meat that can be fantastic and can be rubbish. This venison was dark and gamey enough that I half convinced myself that there was a little liver in the mix. Marinaded and fried, then served with a sweet and tart cherry sauce and potato gratin.

Finish the meal off with a small rhubarb crumble and a macchiato with amaretto and I think it’s one of the best meals I’ve had this year. Not bad for twenty quid a head.

I’m not doing a very good job of getting this done in a timely fashion. Thankfully my readership is 2 3, so it doesn’t matter too much…

A sunny Sunday in Wellington…

It’s probably an apocryphal tale, but there is a famous story about the Brits and the Merkins playing war games in the North Atlantic against a computer controlled enemy. The theory was simple enough – one team against the other and if your ship was ‘destroyed’ you shut he hell up and played dead. The computers aim was to get supplies from one side of the battleground to the other, while the humans had to stop them.

It all went well enough, and everyone had lots of fun and drank lashings of ginger beer with their lunch. Until they tried to work out what the computer had been up to. Statistically it was getting through more frequently than it should have done. And it was always losing the same boats early on in the battles.

It took time, but they worked out what the computer had been up to.

It had ‘realised’ that its convoy was as strong as its weakest member. So it was intentionally sacrificing the same weak ships over and over again so that the rest of the convoy could hammer on ahead unhindered.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. You’d not be alone. Read the rest of this entry »

First up, lets all just say “Woo! Isn’t that impressive!”.

View larger map

If, of course, you don’t think it’s impressive, don’t bother. I’ve already said “Woo!” enough times to make up for you unimpressed types.

Right, moving on…

For reasons most (all) would associate with masochism, we decided to go play in the traffic again. Specifically, since every country claims that its roads grind to a halt, we decided to go play in rush hour traffic. Read the rest of this entry »

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).

It’s strange to think, but Jean and I have been married 6 years today. And we’ve been together 10. That’s a third of our lives, near as damnit (I’m 32, she’s 28).

Today was a good day.

The cats levered us out of bed just before lunch, demands for breakfast merging with demands for the lunchtime meal that they never get.

For lunch we went off to the incredible King William pub in Heydon. It’s a pub embedded firmly in the past (even it’s website is lingering in the mid 90s). It’s exactly as it was when I first went there 15 years ago – the gloom in the in entrance hall, the beams threatening to brain me, the horse brasses on every wall, the hanging tables and the huge fireplace. The menu is the same too…

I know how dull it is to listen to someone else’s food choices, but this was beyond all descriptions… Beef sashimi with chilli jam; local sausages with bubble and squeak; and a jaffa cake bread and butter pudding. I’ve possibly never eaten any better.

Bread and butter pudding is traditionally a thick stodgy mess or carbs and fat. This horrifically rich sounding version was actually the lightest bread and butter pudding I’ve ever had, almost having the texture of a light but rich moist cake.

And by god, it’s perfect weather for a pint of Adnam’s Bitter to go with it all.

Then over to Wood Green at Heydon to be tempted by cats looking for a home. I can’t say enough good things about Wood Green – they’re everything that the RSPCA should be, but aren’t. They ignore the politics that the RSPCA has embraced, and instead dedicate their time to looking after animals. They went even higher in my estimation when I discovered that they never put down an animal just because they can’t rehome it. They have one pair there who have lived with them for over seven years. They got our yearly anniversary gift this year…

Then, this evening, we travelled in to Cambridge to watch “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs” – a truly wonderful film – and to eat ice cream for dinner.

Who needs to be a grown up…?

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

Don’t worry… I wouldn’t dare call this a recipe…

I got bored at the weekend and made some muesli. 7 1/5kg (16lbs) of the stuff.

Oat flakes, wheat flakes, barley flakes, malted wheat flakes, bran flakes, crimson raisins, apricot, papaya, corn flakes and crunchy nutty things…

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… :)

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…

Sep 2008
The lighter snack…

On my desk right now I have a packet of “Tesco light bites Maple Bars” which claim to be “Big on taste, light on Calories, sugar or fat.” The ingredients are : Rice (40%), Glucose Syrup, Fructo-Oligosaccharides, Wheat(13%), Sugar, Glycerol, Maple Syrup, Veggie Oil, Malt, flavours and stuff.

By my estimates that’s 47% sugar and oil, and 330Kcal/100g. Honey, for comparison, is 310Kcal/100g.

Yeah… go Tescos…