Saturday 31 December 2011


Yesterday was my granddad's funeral. He died just before Christmas.

He was 90 years old, which is, by anyone's standards, a pretty good innings, so I'm not sad for him.
I'm sad for me, though, and for all of us that he's left behind.

He did a lot in his 90 years - more, probably, than I will ever know about, and almost certainly more than most of us will ever do.
When he was 15, he ran away to sea and joined the merchant navy. When I first knew him (some number of years later), he was a marine pilot. He was also, variously, a boat surveyor, a councillor, a younger brother at Trinity House, the chairman of the local health authority, the chairman of the county college and countless other things.

He knew everything - a handy skill when trawling through the myriad crosswords that my Granny used to make us all (when we were there - probably mostly him, when we weren't) do every day - I'm pretty sure I don't know anyone else with that kind of crazy general knowledge - and had been everywhere - all over the World.

He had a succession of dogs, cats and other animals that just seemed to turn up - I don't think he ever went out looking for them, but, until a few years ago, he always had at least one on the go. Even after the last of his own dogs was gone, all the others (really all) in town knew who's pockets to go rooting through for biscuits.

He and my Granny did an unbelievable amount of work for charity - between them they must have raised tens of thousands of pounds over the years.

He didn't always see eye to eye with everyone in terms of opinions and things, but would rarely have let them know it, because, fundamentally, he was someone who liked people. And they liked him. All of them. You couldn't walk down the street with him without meeting someone that he knew and without, often, making new friends as well.

Gramps used to tell us all separately, that we were his Favourite Grandchild (such troublemaking!). We all knew this, of course, but I think that, deep down, we probably all also knew that it was true - we were. Despite all the globetrotting and adventure, he was a proper family man, and really quite devoted to his mother, brothers, my Granny, my mum, us - the grandchildren and his new great grandchildren, as were we to him.

As well as all this, he was fun - so much fun - and kind, and the World will be a greyer place without him in it.

But we are lucky to have had someone like that in our lives - most people probably never even get that - and, although I will miss him loads, I know that I am a happier and better person for that.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

WB Yeats

This Coming Year...

... I resolve:

- To get good with chocolate. I pretty much know what I'm doing, but I really need to practise to become more consistent.

- To learn to use my camera to take awesome photographs. I think I might need some actual classes for this one. Or a good book, at least, if anyone can recommend one.

- To do something nice every day - some kind of good deed - it doesn't have to be huge, but it does have to be intentional and voluntary.

There are other, obvious, things that I'd like to do, but I'm a realist and I don't want to be a stereotype, so I think that I'll just do them quietly, in my own time, instead of publicly resolving them for the year.

I'd be grateful for all the support I can get, dear readers, in whatever manner possible, not least in the manner of chocolate testing/disposal.

I hope that 2012 brings you everything you wish for, all of you. Happy New Year!

Sunday 25 December 2011

Christmas Eve

In my house, when I was growing up, we always ate boiled eggs for tea on Christmas Eve. Always. Without fail. And bacon sandwiches on Chrisas morning too, but that's a separate story.
I don't know why. Most likely none of us do.
Since leaving home, we've been trying to establish our own traditions - needless to say, we're not really there yet.

Its pretty important for the Christmas Eve meal to be quick and easy to prepare - there are always far too many other things to do, I think it shouldn't be TOO extreme - after all, the following day, you have to eat enough to sink a small battleship, and it should definitely involve bubbles - I'm pretty sure that's a given.

Not sure we hit it off exactly tonight, but it was good all the same. And the wrapping is all done.

So - lobster and chips. And aioli. All washed down with a 2002 Pol Roger rose.

Now our stockings are hung and we'd better go to sleep.
Don't want to anger Father Christmas...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Monday 19 December 2011

More Leftovers

I realise that last night's meal looks suspiciously similar to brunch...
I guess that's the way of the leftover.
Fried eggs with refried (or, actually, just fried) Christmas slaw.

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Sunday 18 December 2011


Eggs scrambled in leftover duck fat with blue cheese and Christmas slaw...

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Wednesday 14 December 2011

Slightly Drunk...

Today we went Christmas Bordeaux tasting after work. It was good, but we got home a bit late and drunk.
Husband ordered Domino pizza. I recycled the last of the weekend's leftover beef.

Beef with stirfried green beans, tomatoes, garlic and a smattering of Christmas cheese.

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I've definitely eaten too much Extreme Christmas Food recently and not enough vegetables...
It's starting to make me feel a bit grim, and I know that there's still a LONG way to go.
So last night - garlicky mushrooms and some (surprisingly good for the time of year) tomatoes.
And, because I'm not Totally Unfestive, some Christmas Cheese :-)

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Saturday 10 December 2011

Big Bird

Last night, we ate chunks of ostrich (which I found during an earlier freezer crusade) with something that was going to be ratatouille until I left out the tomatoes, so in fact just ended up being vegetables...

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Friday 9 December 2011

Squash Gratin

Chipolatas with rice and gratin butternut squash (more on this shortly). Delicious.

I also made some penguin flavoured cake pops.

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Thursday 8 December 2011

Bare Cupboards

Oh dear - what can you make very quickly when the only vegetables you have in your possession are three onions and a slightly suspect green pepper...?

This, as it turns out, with the addition of some red lentils and a tin of tomatoes... Actually tastier than it looks :-)

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Tuesday 6 December 2011

Two Kinds of Cabbage

And garlic and bacon and spring onions anna bit of mustard... Deeeelicious :-)

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Monday 5 December 2011

Solitary Tea

Husband has my bug. He is manfully dealing with it and doing a much better job than I did at eating and stuff, but the upshot is that I was cooking for myself tonight...
Since I've been ill and wanted something comforting and also since I was allowed to eat normally banned foods, I went for scrambled eggs on toast - the designated food of the recovering invalid :-)

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Friday 2 December 2011

Last Night

Duck livers with slightly chillied leek and cabbage :-)

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Wednesday 30 November 2011


Mussels with courgette "chips"* and tomatoes.

*not chips

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Monday 28 November 2011

A Few Things

Some delicious salmon that I found in the freezer - with leek/kale and sweet potato mash.

Also - not certain I posted this before, but here is some quail and lentils from last weekend. I love quails. They taste GOOD.


We were too incompetent to buy/defrost anything for tea today, so resorted (pretty cheerily, in my case) to fridge/cupboard creativity.

Cauliflower curry.
Husband had his with, weirdly, pasta in the shape of The Simpsons (I discovered too late that we has run out of rice).

I ate mine with dollops of @KaveyF's chilli pickle, which is delicious :-)

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Friday 25 November 2011

Must be Almost Christmas

As there are sprouts everywhere.

Is fine by me. I love sprouts.

Tonight, we fried lardons, a lot of sliced garlic and some chilli and then turned down the heat and added thinly sliced leeks, which we cooked gently for about half an hour till they were softnice.
Chucked in the quartered sprouts about 10 minutes before the end, cooked for a bit and then added a big spoonful of Dijon mustard, a little tiny bit of butter and a splash of cider vinegar.

Delicious :)

I also made six Christmas puddings and tested my new Red.

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Thursday 24 November 2011

Fish Wednesday

Tea yesterday - Rather inexpertly filleted, but nonetheless delicious sea bass, with garlicky stirfried vegetables.

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Tuesday 22 November 2011

Domestic Bliss

Jerk chicken and veggies.
Made by husband and waiting for me when I got home.

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Saturday 19 November 2011

Pie Eyed

I made some pies for a Pork Pie/Booze Extravaganza last night with lots of lovely people.

I can only show you the outsides as I didn't take any pictures At All once the pies were in session.

One pork:

And one veggie:

And I also discovered these lovely people, who make this:

Which is delicious!

Let's Make Christmas: Mulled Wine Chocolates

A little late with this post, but here's what I made for the splendidly dynamic Vanessa Kimbell's fantastic 'Let's Make Christmas' event at Fortnum and Mason.

Mulled Wine Chocolates (method from William Curley's Couture Chocolate).

For the jelly:
500ml suitable red wine (I used a soft fruity merlot/cabernet blend)
250g demerara sugar
a lemon
8 sheets of gelatine

For the ganache:
400ml cream
a nutmeg
a cinnamon stick
10 cloves
60g liquid glucose
350g dark chocolate (I used Amedei)
60g unsalted butter

For the covering:
60g cocoa butter
150g dark chocolate
500g dark chocolate
lemon zest


Pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Add the spices, simmer gently for a couple of minutes and then cover with cling film and leave to infuse for at least four hours.

In the meantime, make the jelly.
Chop up the gelatine a bit and soak in cold water for ten minutes.

Slice up the lemon and stick it into a pan with the wine. Chuck in the sugar too and bring to the boil. Simmer and stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

Strain the mixture to remove the lemons (look how pretty and red they are!) and then return to the pan with the (squeezed out) gelatine.
Bring back to the boil, stir to dissolve gelatine and then simmer gently for about 25 minutes.

Line a cold tin with clingfilm or silicon paper.

When it has cooled slightly, pour in the jelly mixture and leave to set in a cool place.

When the cream has had long enough to infuse (it should taste spicy), strain it and return to the pan with the liquid glucose. Bring back to the boil and then remove from the heat, cooling until it reaches 65 degrees celcius.
Melt the chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water to 41.
Add the cooled cream to the chocolate and mix frantically to emulsify.
When this is smooth, add the butter (chopped and room temperature) and mix in.

Pour the ganache over the cold jelly and leave in a cool place overnight to set.

The next day, make a quick cocoa butter mixture - melt the cocoa butter and the (small amount of) chopped chocolate over boiling water.

Allow to cool slightly and then brush over the surface of the set ganache.

Leave to set for a couple of minutes, then flip (easier said than done, a parchment covered chopping board or similar would probably be useful here) over so that the jelly side is facing upwards.
Paint the jelly side in a similar way.

Using a hot knife (I used the hob, a hairdryer is also effective. Hot water isn't great as you, obviously, don't want to get any wet in the chocolate), chop the sheet of jelly/ganache into squares.
I don't seem to have a photo of this bit, but you get the picture.

When this is also set, you can temper your (big portion of) chocolate. Temperatures obviously vary a bit from chocolate to chocolate, but the principles are the same.
Heat the chocolate up (over boiling water) to about 41 degrees.
Then cool down to 28-29 (I did this in an ice bath, but it also is effective to add cold chopped chocolate).
Heat chocolate back up to 31 degrees.

Dip each square into the tempered chocolate to coat (easier said than done...) and leave on silicon paper to set.
I decorated with slivers of lemon zest.

Et voila!

The event itself was lovely. It was nice to see existing friends and meet new ones (sorry I didn't get to meet everyone - I promise to do better next time).

The quality of the homemade presents was phenomenal - everything looked really stunning.
I didn't take pictures, but there are lots knocking around on Twitter and blogs.
I took home Kavey's (of Kavey Eats) amazing chilli and ginger pickle. Hot and delicious - my favourite kind of thing - I'm really enjoying it so far.

Thursday 10 November 2011

You People Can Try To Tell Me...

... that this isn't the Actual Best Tea Ever, but you will be wrong.
And I shan't believe you!

See how pink and good?

Bandita totally agrees with me - she REALLY wants to eat it...


I accidentally ate in the Hawksmoor Guildhall bar last night.
I'm not going to name any names, but I was lured there under the false pretence of a quick post work drink...

I drank two delicious cocktails, which I don't remember the names of, but were both very pretty and in lovely shiny glassware.

And I ate this. A giant burger of giantness. With stilton in it.
And a vast thing of chips cooked in dripping.

The French dip ribby thing was also rather splendid...

Then I went home and made these.

AND did all the resultant washing up...

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