Sunday, 27 February 2011


I realise that I'm a bit late to the party here, but it has recently come to my attention that you can make macarons using Italian meringue, rather than the, in my experience, a whole lot less stable, French method - genius!

So yesterday, I decided to see whether I could do it and, as it turns out, it's really pretty easy :-)

Some day, I'll be organised enough to be one of those awesome people that takes step by step photos.
This is not that day.

I did a wee bit of web-based research and then dived in.
I knocked up a quick Italian meringue (I whisked 75g egg whites and slowly dripped/slow whisked in a sugar syrup of 200g sugar and 50 g water, brought to a temperature of 245 on the hob, followed by a five minute fast whisk till cool and glossy).
I folded this into a (pretty stiff) mixture of 200g icing sugar, 200g ground almonds, 75g egg whites and some pink food colouring (obviously) until just mixed.
I piped circles onto a silicone baking sheet (actually rather better than I'd been expecting to - I thought I'd end up with loads of differently sized uneven circles, but it turns out that I'm better at piping than I thought...), left to dry for half an hour or so, and baked at 160ish for 10-15 mins.
Later on, I sandwiched them round some rather extreme white chocolate ganache.

I was really pleased with how these turned out, as a first attempt, at least - particularly the mini ones (see afternoon snack post for scale)

Next time, I'll play with flavours and things.
I'm pretty sure you can do something nice with lemon and if anyone knows where to get freeze dried raspberries, I'm definitely looking to incorporate them...
I can see myself getting a bit obsessive about these, so if anyone is prepared to eat some, I'm welcoming volunteers.

A Midafternoon Snackette

Last drop of Madeira and mini macaron...

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Sunday Lunch

Because I've been macaronning, I had a surplus of egg yolks.

What better way to use them up, I hear you ask, than some super rich scrambled eggs garnished with a slightly squashed venison sausage that you bought from the farmers' market this morning?

Why thank you. What a delightful suggestion!

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Weekend Burger Fest

Today (or, in fact, since I didn't actually manage to post this on Saturday when I started writing it, yesterday) has been a proper Day Off.

I have finally learned how to make macarons (more on that later), read lots of weird lifestyle articles in online newspapers and been on an unexpected Saturday Date with my tasty husband :-)

We went to the cinema to see True Grit (which we both really enjoyed, despite both being sat next to the annoying-in-the-cinema-man-from-hell and the rather sudden tear-jerking ending, which really didn't give you time to recover yourself before stepping back into the bright lights of reality), made a brief stop for pre dinner cocktails (cucumber martini on the left - amazingly cucumbrous and berry capirinha on the right - berryey, limey and delicious) and then moved onto the shiny new Byron Burger on Upper Street.
I don't usually eat burgers, not because I don't love them or even because they make me into a Fat(ter) Little Piggie, but because they have a weird tendency to make me ill - I have no idea why - whether it's the meat or the bread or the cooking method or what... I've even been sensitive to chicken burgers in the past - is crazy.
However, I was tempted by some rather lovely pictures on Twitter last week and have been dreaming of tasty Byron Burgers ever since...

I loved it (and haven't had ANY side effects - maybe is because of Byron Burger, or maybe I am cured - I hope it's the latter!). Fantastic fast food, done really well - both efficient and delicious.
Because it's February (apparently) we were lucky enough to catch the Big D burger, which, amongst other things, has the advantage of being Twice the Size of any of the others.

The husband had to open his mouth entertainingly wide to fit it all in (actually - there's a funnier picture of him doing exactly that, but in the interests of a happy marriage, I thought this one might be more diplomatic).
We accompanied our enorma-burgers with courgette fries (kind of like onion rings, but courgettier) and fries and happily availed ourselves of the splendid sauce selection (French's mustard tastes is I fondly imagine everything in America tastes - I love it).
And husband had a surprisingly tasty American beer from New Orleans (his spiritual homeland) - the delightfully named Dixie.
We didn't have pudding. I allowed myself to be talked out of a knickerbocker glory, but then totally kicked myself (and the naughty person that talked me out of it) when I saw the people next to us having one. I might not have needed it, or even particularly loved the taste of all the ice cream and squirty cream, but it was Oh So Very Beautiful - exactly what you see American children eating in movies :-)

Here's another burger shot, to take my mind off it, and in case you've not seen enough already.
See - see how bloody-nice (and also bloody lovely - hahahahahahaha).

So - Byron Burger = awesome.
We'll definitely be going back, just as soon as we've worked off the current burgers.
And next time, there will be knickerbocker glories :-)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Late Night Mincing

The lovely husband and I were talking the other day about food ( this happens fairly often, so I don't remember the precise context) and he was bemoaning the fact that we ate too many things that he didn't understand ( whatever that means...) and that we never just ate Mince...

I'm not sure that that's strictly true, but I'm not averse to a nice Mince myself, so, when the lovely people at Abel & Cole had a special offer on this week, I sought to rectify the situation.

Last night, he was out at a band practice, so I made a tasty Mince (with lots of chilli, tomato and soy sauce) and some roasted vegetables (mainly squash and beetroot - I love beetroot) for when he got home.
I ate mine with swathes of nommy home made mayonnaise.
I'm such a piggy :-)

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Slightly Confused

Dinner was a bit of a mish mash last night - not really sure why.
Turned out really tasty though, so I'm not too upset :-)
Pesto (lovingly made from tasty basil etc - really garlicky) stir fried brussels sprouts, garlic wild mushrooms and whiting with pestoey dressing.

Slightly less luminous in real life than in the photo...

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Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Lovingly preserved for use in leaner times...

I totally forgot about the stuff I'd preserved last year until about December and it was a really lovely discovery when I finally remembered, so I'm aiming for something similar this year.

I'm also planning to make a start on some rhubarb gin later in the week - as soon as I mind a suitable receptacle, basically.

Cheeky Midweek Pork Belly

To distract from the grimness if all that is Tuesday...
Lovely husband stuck pork chunk in oven at 4 so we could eat it at 8 after I'd got home and steamed some tasty cabbage - Savoy, my favourite (the cabbage, not the G&S - I could live without that).
So here it is - awesome crackling based Tuesday tea:

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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Post Valentine Dinner

Beautiful fillet steaks from Forman and Field (which we meant to eat for Valentine Meal of Loveliness, but which were ousted by Heal Farm box) with double fried (in dripping - ooh yeah) chips, chimichurri and (weirdly) brassicas.

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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Lazy Food Today

Leftover S&K pie filling from freezer with (rather overcooked) pak choi and tasty garlic mayonnaise wot I made earlier...

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Masterchef with Booze

I missed the Masterchefs last week, because I've had a whole load of super busy evenings so am now taking the opportunity to catch up (thank you iplayer) and to finally drink my Valentine Sherry-pagne...

Not sure about the Masterchef, but the sherry-pagne is lovely - less weird than I was expecting, but delicious nevertheless.

Merry Saturday, everyone :-)

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Tired Supper

Boston baked beans from freezer with duck egg and nominal vegetables.
Stuffed now.

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Friday, 18 February 2011

Fat Friday Payday Lunch


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Day Off Lunch

Yesterday, so a bit out of order...

We went to visit my two mini nephews yesterday, so I made two kinds of pie for Double Pie Lunch.

S&K pie - one of my favourites. Happily - I made extra filling, so there are two more S&K stew based meals nestling in the freezer...

Followed by rhubarb cream pie.
This turned out really well - I was particularly pleased with the pastry :-)
I LOVE rhubarb.

Nephews were pretty good too :-)

Back to work today though, tragically...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Very Quick Tea

As I'm super late home...

Forman & Field beautiful smoked salmon and a super quick salad and vinaigrette.

Very Special Tea

Cabbage and chicken livers with extra hot Nando sauce.

Very special because husband made it for me when we got home at 10pm.
AND did the washing up.

Marriage rocks :-)

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And also

Last night, in last ditch attempt to make the most of my Two Days Off, I made Romantic Valentine Last Rolo fairy cakes.
I got up too late to put them in tins this morning, though, so will be taking them to work with me tomorrow instead.

I just made normal fairy cakes (with foolproof cake recipe - 3 eggs, plus their weight in butter, sugar and flour - infallible) with rolos in the middle and iced them with a rather inspired (even if I say so myself) caramel buttercream (buttercream with added caramel - I'm so cunning) and sprinkled them with cocoa powder...

The rolos turned weird and crispy, a bit like Dime Bars - I quite like this effect, but might try freezing them first next time, to see if I can achieve a more roloey effect.
The caramel buttercream was a triumph, though. It's all I can do now to stop myself breaking into the tins and licking the tops off all the cakes :-)
The Other Half likes them too. He doesn't always go for sweet things, but when I got home today there were three less than I'd made last night. A ringing endorsement!


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Last Few Hours of My Mini Holiday

And I'm celebrating/commiserating with salmon and salad with lemon, chilli and garlic dressing.

Might have some leftover chocolate pudding for pudding. Or maybe some rhubarb. Or pie.
There are Many Possibilities...

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Monday, 14 February 2011

A Valentine Dinner

Courtesy of Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and the nice people at Heal Farm.

Fried sirloin steaks with crispy baby potatoes, salad and a tasty Rhone Valley wine (with decorative rose petals)

We cooked the Heal Farm steaks rare to medium rare (which seemed both easy and appropriate for fairly thin cut sirloin) and dressed the salad simply with jerez vinegar and olive oil.
The steaks were absolutely delicious - a really delicate flavour, almost like veal - we didn't make any sauce, so as to be able to taste them properly, and didn't at all regret that decision.
The wine (Vidal-Fleury Ventoux 2009) was fruity (leafy red fruits on the nose and a nice strawberry taste) but moderately tannic, with a high level of acidity and very good with the food. The high acidity suggests that it might be better after a year or two, but still very drinkable now. It was also quite strong (at 14%) which rendered us both a bit merry - perhaps not a bad thing for Valentine's Day ;-)

We made a pretty good attempt at the mocha pudding (garnished with Forman & Field brandied cherries)

but were defeated about half way through - more for tomorrow, I guess!
It was much nicer than I was expecting (I'm more into fruity puddings than chocolatey, as a rule) - kind of like a coffeey chocolate cheescake filling, lightened by a booze soaked layer of sponge running through the middle.

The meal was all conducted by Valentinular candlelight,
accompanied by the Kitty of Love
and followed by some lovely Twin Peaks.


Thanks to Helen and to Heal Farm - we'll definitely be back for more :-)

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Not Really Sunday Tea

Because I have two lovely days off at the beginning of the coming week :-)

Roasted quails with ribbony salad and lime, garlic & chilli dressing.

I love quails. Not only are they super-mini (correct me if I'm wrong, but I honestly can't think of anything that doesn't taste better in miniature format*) but they are also really delicious in their own right - sweeter than chicken, but much lighter than pigeon or similar.
I'd normally bone them for ease of eating, but I was feeling lazy today, so just browned them in butter and stuck them in the oven for ten minutes. It's sometimes quite fun to eat in the messy manner of a predatory animal in any case ;-)


* The same often applies to giant food.

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Saturday, 12 February 2011

I Would Like

To make some little cakes tomorrow...
Does anyone want some?

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Many Foods

Inspired (in part) by the Formanslovecookoff and our First Married Valentine's Day and also simply by Greed (and not yet knowing about my lovely Heal Farm hamper) I wantonly ordered a whole load of expensive, luxurious Stuff from the nice people at Forman and Field.
It arrived this morning.
Mouth is watering!

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Boring tea today

In preparation for all the Steak and Other Luxuries that we have to eat over the next few days...
Very very garlicky tomato sauce with courgette ribbons and Parmesan.

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Smoked chicken (hot smoked by my own fair hand) and colourful roasted vegetables.
Including a lot of beetroot.
Must remember that in the morning...

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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Thursday Tea

Kidneys al Jerez with PSB (one of my favourite things in the World) and a lovely Manzanilla...

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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Post Rehearsal Food

No picture today - pretty sure I've posted identical photos before, so you're not missing out!

Courgette ribbons with v v chilli tomato sauce (and a 'starter' of Too Much Salt Beef)...

Desk Lunch


Testing Prepped Caraway and Lemon Pumpkin Soup and Pie Double Cook

Last night, I did a bit of last minute recipe testing for the very clever Vanessa Kimbell for her soon to be in print book, Prepped.

The premise of the book is a series of linked recipes, in which you do one set of preparation, which can then be used to make more than one dish.
This is an idea which has been explored before - most recently on my bookshelf, in Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett's Economy Gastronomy - but I am particularly impressed by Vanessa's take - it's not so much about using up leftovers or stretching ingredients out (both of which are, of course, admirable), but more about being efficient with preparations and saving time in order to create delicious dishes using straightforward techniques and simple 'signature' flavours.
It all sounds great to me - I'm definitely looking forward to the finished article!

I tested caraway and lemon pumpkin soup and pie (Vanessa's recipe below).

The recipe was really straightforward (even the pie - I'm not someone who's particularly worried about making pastry, but I know that some people have a proper paranoia - this is exactly the kind of recipe to put them at ease) and didn't use any weird ingredients or equipment (though I had more trouble than I expected getting caraway seeds at short notice - I guess they're more the kind of thing I just have in the back of the cupboard than the kind of thing I actually buy!).

Due to season and that kind of thing, I used butternut squash, which absolutely suits my lazy nature, as I didn't even bother to remove the skin after roasting, which I would have needed to do with the pumpkin.

I only made one batch of the base recipe, and kept the mixture fairly thick, so after I had made the pie, I didn't have a massive amount left for soup, just a bowl or two, but that wasn't a problem - after all, there's a limit to the amount of soup one girl can eat!

The soup was good - even with the addition of the parmesan, it was a wee bit sweet for my taste, but obviously seasoning is fairly subjective, and a bit of salt and pepper was all I needed to counteract the sweetness of the squash.
I really liked the lemon flavour (though my husband was less certain) - in fact, for extra acidity, I might even chuck in some of the juice next time. That way, I'd end up with fewer zestless lemons in my fridge too ;-)

The pie, though, was a masterpiece (even if I do say so myself).

The pastry was a really good recipe - nice and easy to work with and absolutey delicious. Also - it didn't come out with a soggy bottom, despite the lack of blind baking, which I had wondered about when I started.

The caraway gave it a nice subtle spiciness, which was a lovely contrast to the usual cinammon bomb you tend to get in this kind of recipe and the lemon zest gave the whole thing a kind of magical lift - absolutely delicious.

I took it to a 90th birthday party at the weekend and it went down Extremely Well - everyone commented on how delicious it was.

I'm definitely going to be making this again - the pie in particular - hopefully pretty soon!

Recipe below.
I love the way that this is written – I think the introduction and the tips and uses are really nice!

Double cook
Caraway & Lemon Pumpkin Soup & Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkins are magnificent. They play a major part in the autumn food stash. Initially, I am always slightly intimidated by them: they look burly and tough and are often large. The reality is that pumpkins are actually soft and buttery once cooked, but I have to remind myself of that. They make super soup, fabulous pies and are great just roasted and tossed in herbs and butter, so I say that they are well worth tackling. Exposed to a constant gentle dry heat that softens and sweetens them, the fruit develops a depth of flavour that becomes the base for a mellow soup or pie. Deep orange in colour with citrus-fruit overtones and caraway undertones, this is a sweet autumnal taste.

Serves 8
Prep time 12 minutes, plus 1 hour roasting
Cooking time 10 minutes
Suitable for freezing? Yes

1.8kg pumpkin
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
2 level tbsp caraway seeds
100ml water
50g Parmesan, grated
125ml single cream
Crème fraîche and Black pepper to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 5.
2. Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a small amount of salt. Roast for 1 hour, give or take 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pumpkin. It is best overdone, to allow the sweetness to develop.
3. Let the pumpkin cool for a few minutes, then scoop the flesh into a blender along with the lemon zest.
4. Using a pestle and mortar, grind up the caraway seeds and add them to the blender. Add 100ml of warm water and blend. You can adjust the consistency to your liking by adding more or less water, but I do prefer mine served thick. Add the cream.
5. You can either pop this in the fridge to use later on (it will keep for 3 days ) or transfer it back to the stove and Serve hot . It is important that you don’t add the parmesan until you are ready to eat as this gives you the option of using it in the next recipe - pumpkin pie. Just before serving stir in grated Parmesan. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche and salt and pepper to taste.

• Select a medium-size pumpkin; they’re generally sweeter than large ones. Cut the pumpkin in half and again into quarters and scrape out the seeds. (Roast the seeds and eat them as a snack.) Take care to keep the flat side down when cutting into it; if you cut with the round side down, it can rock and you can very easily cut yourself.
• Pumpkins keep for up to 3 months providing the stem and skin are left intact.

Pumpkin Pie

Makes 1 large pie to serve 8 people
Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 35 minutes

For the pastry
250g plain flour (00 is good but not essential)
Pinch of salt
50g icing sugar
125g butter
2 egg yolks
30ml ice-cold water

For the filling
200g caster sugar
800ml of Lemon & Caraway Pumpkin Soup
3 eggs
1 tsp caraway seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/gas mark 3
2. Sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into cubes in the flour, then rub between the fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Don’t overdo this. Keep your fingers deliberately light; it is essential to keep the mixture as cold as possible for the best texture.
3. Add the egg yolks and a little of the water and mix into a firm dough with a metal spoon. Use your judgment with the water: add a few drops at a time and mix; a few drops too much can make the pastry too wet.
4. Add the water little and often until the dough comes together. Once it does, quickly use your hands to form a ball, wrap it in cling film, and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.
5. Roll out onto a floured board and use to line a 26cm quiche dish.
6. Mix the sugar, soup base and eggs together. Mix well and pour into the pastry-lined dish. Scatter with a teaspoon of caraway seeds and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

• Both the pastry and the pumpkin mixture will keep in the fridge for 48 hours, so when you’re ready to complete it, simply pour the base into the pastry case and bake.
• If the pumpkin base is very cold, add an extra 5 minutes to the cooking time
You can use butternut squash in place of pumpkin for the same result.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

What to Eat When You Get Home at 11pm and You're Hungry

Cold salt beef (made by own fair hand), gherkins, tomatoes, a bit of unidentified French cheese and some tasty mustard :-)

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Yesterday's Unblogged Tea

Chipolatas, broccoli and carrots...
Not v exciting, but totally did the job.

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Monday, 7 February 2011

Bonus Monday Lunch

Unexpected Nando's :-)

Extra hot livers and an (entirely un) crispy Portuguese roll.

No olives though, as the woman at the counter was totally mean, so I didn't want to reward her by ordering olives...

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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Mish Mash Tea

All sorts of weird stuff today... Courgette ribbons, leftover (actually, there's probably still enough for several weeks) Boston baked beans and pastrami wot I made :-)

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Look Look Look!

I made pastrami!

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

What We Ate For Our Dinner With Heston

In case you have been recently and tragically marooned on another planet and don't know, Mr H Blumenthal yesterday opened a new London restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental on Knightsbridge.

I'm sure you all know the premise - historic type food with a modern twist etc. It's not really going to be Heston's either - it will be run by Ashley Palmer-Watts but Heston is due to be there for the first few months too (and indeed, was there today, alternately cooking and schmoozing the Important People).

When I heard that they were taking online bookings, I (and many others) frantically logged in to Open Table without any great hopes (I'd heard all about the Fat Duck booking process) and unexpectedly scored us a table for two for lunch on a (not super convenient) date selected by the random number generator that is my mind...

I spent a month grovelling, pleading and sneaking in order to obtain the day off work (month-end, don't you know?) and trying to work out (again) exactly what 'smart-casual' really does mean (my interpretation is clothes with as few holes in as possible and preferably without toothpaste spilled down the front) until today, when my randomly selected date finally rolled around.

So - to the important bits!

We had cocktails in the bar while we were waiting for our table (we were early):

Sake martini for my lovely husband (as yet unnamed on this blog - we're working on it...)

and some kind of sloe ginny, fruity type thing for me.

We had been toying with the idea of the (apparently v good value) set lunch menu, but were seduced by the a la carte (I'm SO easily led).

We had some lovely breads while we were deciding.

For starters, He-Who-Has-Not-Yet-Been-Named went for (or stole from under my nose, depending on how you view it) the obvious Meat Fruit (chicken liver parfait cunningly disguised as a mandarin orange) with smokey toast

and I had bone marrow with pickled vegetables, which was pleasingly like eating a Natural History Museum dinosaur leg - I think it's to do with the fact that the bones are so clean. Or something.

Our main courses - as is often the case, the least exciting looking bit of the menu - were steak and chips for Him, with (utterly delicious) mushroom ketchup and a red wine sauce and, for me, turbot with so-called cockle ketchup and spinach.
Maybe not quite as wild as the meatfruit, but we totally enjoyed both.

And finally - pudding. We were a bit groany and full by this stage (three courses for LUNCH!) but we soldiered on with the Tipsy Cake and spit roasted pineapple (which we'd been watching turning by amazing clockwork all through the meal).
Totally my highlight - it was delicious. I'm definitely going to be trying to recreate it myself as soon as we've had a bit of digestion time.
We *accidentally* started eating it before I remembered to photograph it - surely a testament to the temptation :-)

And a weird little complimentary post-pudding pudding.
Something that tasted (in a good way) like Earl Grey flavoured condensed milk, with a yummy thymey (I think) and slightly savoury shortbread.

There was also a pretty good selection of wines by the glass, which we fairly generously availed ourselves of and I particularly liked the fact that the menu (which I stole) had approximate dates for the origins of the food and often references for the recipes.

Overall, we had a great lunch. We can't afford to go back very often (and probably won't be lucky enough to get a table so easily next time), but it's definitely one for the Special Occasions List.

No pictures today

But I had a twix and a diet coke (desperate times and all that) for lunch and the first of my Boston Baked Beans for tea...
They were pretty good, which, given the number of portions now in the freezer, is fortunate... Nice and porky :-)

Tomorrow were going for lunch at Dinner if that makes any sense at all.
And I'm vaguely planning stage two of my pastrami making.
If I'm not too drunk after lunch, that is....
It's shaping up to be an exciting Day Off.

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