I wish I was organised enough to bring my own lunch to work; it would save an absolute fortune. As it is though, I really value taking time away from the desk to buy something, and even though the subsidised work canteen is generally good (the wonton noodles are excellent and only cost 10x as much as in a Singapore hawker centre) the idea of my post-tax salary going back to my employers sends me outside every time, even in the cold.
Possibly my favourite winter lunch is the chicken pot pie from EAT. It set off a series of attempts to recreate it at home. Chicken Pot Pie is a meal for the Lake District, when we’ve been out walking all day and buy chickens from Penrith, but for special occasions at home there is Lobster Pot Pie.
Having shelled the lobster in advance, this was a weeknight dinner the day after Valentine’s day. Or as the Husband calls it: Tuesday. We don’t go out, exchange gifts or even good wishes but we did have lobster for dinner and chocolate fondants for dessert. Just because.
Posted in Baking, Celebration, Main course, Pastry, Pie, Seafood, Weeknight dinner
Tagged lobster, pastry, pie, romantic, seafood, weeknight
To be honest – macarons would be reason enough to learn how to cook, as far as I’m concerned…that’s how motivated I am by:
1. Greed. For me, to eat a macaron is to crave a second. What a sorry lack of willpower.
2. Tightness, as having paid out for a giant box of Ladurée’s specimens was a bit teeth-gritting…and not just because of the disdain of the Parisienne on the counter…
Anyway, I’ve read all the online guides I can find, and tried recipes from the following books, which I would highly recommend: Nigella Lawson (How to Be A Domestic Goddess), Harry Eastwood (The Skinny French Kitchen – although sadly,out of the recipes I’ve tried the macarons are the only one which really haven’t worked), Jill Colonna (Mad About Macarons – genuinely mad. some are flavoured with curry) and Parragon (Macaroons: 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-size Treats) and through trial and (a lot) of error, have iterated to a formula that works UNLESS: 1. I get misguidedly confident and deviate from it and 2. it is an important macaron situation. I’ve heard that the smallest things can cause the macarons to go (as it were) nuts, e.g. the weather, the particular almonds/egg whites etc. – for me, the disaster variables tend to be oven temperature and emotional pressure. So if I could presume to give advice (which I can’t really) it would be to keep calm, enjoy it, and – pretty much my baking mantra) – a miss is not a fail.
This weekend there was nobody available from the cleaning agency to do their fairy godmother act on our flat. Cleaning it ourselves would be character building, I thought. The Husband disagreed but fortunately we had completely opposite preferences when it came to divvying up the work, so in fact it probably wasn’t enough of a hardship to build any character…and I was able to get a great deal of satisfaction from 1. Pretending to my sister that I had used her toothbrush to clean the bathroom and 2. Spending the cleaning money at the fishmongers’ on ingredients for a fish stew.
Quite often, when I’m anxious about something, I try to think: how can I cook my way out of this?
One of the highlights of my week is Bible Study on Tuesday nights at church. It’s the most amazing spiritual food, and I’m continually amazed by the richness of God’s word, and how alive it is. This term we have been studying the Psalms, which I’ve never particularly connected with before, except (ironically) in songs (like Psalm 51 by Graham Kendrick – amazing psalm, amazing song, amazing message).
Anyway, both of our group leaders were travelling this week, so the Husband and I (aka the “B” Team) led the study on Psalm 81. He is a veteran leader, but I’ve only taught the Bible to 2-7 year olds before, so I was slightly anxious, and whilst we were praying and planning through the study, I baked this cake to bring along. Just because…it never hurts to have cake. It’s a good one for knocking up quickly on a weeknight, for eating the next day, with ingredients that are all baking storecupboard staples, except perhaps the ginger.
Within the low ceilinged kitchen, the stove, oven and fridge are my domain, and the Husband’s territory consists of the sink; I cook, but he’s done the washing up since before we were dating in fact, when he came over for a meal with other friends. I half expected him to propose with a dishwasher instead of a ring.
He is also in charge of the washing machine – last term we studied Ephesians, and it mentions that husbands are to love their wives and be prepared to present them as the church to Christ, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”. His comment was: “I think it means the husband has to do the laundry”. So far the system is working well. Although today when I had run out of tights, he said “Sorry, that’s my fault,” and my immediate (but baseless) question was, why have you been wearing my tights?
He is just behind on the washing. That’s okay – it’s taken me a year to make the Seville Orange Curd he’s been requesting since last year…
Where we live is brilliant for food shopping. There are independent grocers, butchers, fishmongers, middle eastern and Asian shops; all much cheaper than the Waitrose, Morrisons, and even the Lidl within walking distance. Unexpectedly run out of wonton wrappers? Hankering for quince? Not a problem.
It’s such a good place for home cooking that until last summer, i had never eaten at a local restaurant, or ordered a takeaway.
But then there was Dotori. Ah, Dotori. Tiny, imperfectly laid out provider of quality sushi and hot stone bowls of Bibimbap. I mention them in spite of myself because they are already so popular that people go in midweek, get told it’s over an hour until they will be seated, and then they do not scoff and leave, as a reasonable person would, they stand in a tiny space not built for standing in and wait for it. How do I know? We are those people. Or we were a few weeks ago when the Husband suggested going out for dinner. What a treat. Standing shoulder to groin with a lot of tall, overheated people on their smartphones, and repeatedly hissing “it would have been so easy/obvious/low-effort for you to make a reservation!” at the Husband…
So, for those nights when even a takeaway seems like too much effort, having beef bulgogi in the fridge means you can have something like Bibimbap in your bowl well within half an hour. Unlike at Dotori.
(tastes much better than it looks. the sheep pyjamas, however, are just as awesome as they photograph)
Posted in Asian, Budget, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy, Main course, Make ahead, Meat, Sunday lunch, Weeknight dinner
Tagged beef, Korean, make ahead
When I was in the Sixth Form, through no merit of my own, the Head of Sixth nominated me to attend at an event on work-life balance. Amazingly, it was held over lunch at Claridges, where a series of presentations were given, including a Q&A with two graduates of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, and most memorably, a talk from a woman who:
… stood at the front of the room like the figurehead of a ship
And like a prophetess, heavy-lidded eyes burdened with knowledge,
Explained as one who has seen and understands
The benefits and importance of the orgasm.
Posted in Baking, Celebration, Chocolate, Dessert, Make ahead, Mass catering (party!)
Tagged brownie, chocolate, dessert, mousse, restaurant, white chocolate