May 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Light, soup — ros @ 5:37 pm

There’s been a lot of it in this flat recently. Supporting two people (well, one person and a giant with the appetite of a starved woolly mammoth) on a teacher’s salary requires tight budgeting. We’ve had a lot of chicken liver dinners over the last term and I am always looking to find good deals.

I seem to have inherited my father’s love of food bargain hunting and, now that we have reasonable food storage space, I seem to have picked up his tendency for hoarding too. Before the pheasant season finished, we had two whole birds and four packs of breast meat in the freezer. We also had four ducks and 2 kilos of pork leg. Damn Sainsbury’s and their half price temptations!

Goon is not so good at budget shopping. He rarely checks the pricing on fruit and veg so he doesn’t even notice if what he’s picking up is organic or conventional and he never thinks to seek out the bargain bin. I suppose I can’t blame him really. During the time in between leaving his home in Leeds and acquiring me as his personal chef, he lived solely on tinned tuna with rice and, on special occasions, minced beef with rice. However, I have been trying to train him to shop more frugally and he does seem to be learning*.

One day, Goon noticed that the strings of garlic at our corner store were considerably better value than the individual bulbs** so he picked one up. Of course, Goon didn’t think to check on the quality of the garlic and, when he got home, I wasn’t too amused at being presented with a string of 10, slightly sprouted garlic bulbs. A week later i still had six of these on my hands.

 

sprouted garlic

Sorry about the blurring. The garlic was by then very much alive and trying to escape.*** I’m told that garlic in this form is just about useable if you pull out the shoots, but it wouldn’t be long before I had to bin the remainder of the heads. So what could I do in this situation? I had no time to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. There was only one thing for it: soup.

garlic soup

Lots and lots and lots of garlic soup. It’s very nice, although possibly not what you want on a first date and it would seem it develops in strength the longer you leave it. Still, it’s been doing a very good job of keeping the vampires away. I haven’t seen a single one since I made this****.

Garlic Soup (makes around 10 portions)

Ingredients 

  • two pinches saffron threads
  • 175g butter
  • 6 heads garlic, peeled, shoots pulled out, chopped
  • 4 small/medium onions, finely diced
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped up finely
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • generous splash dry sherry
  • 2 1/2  litres chicken stock
  • handful long grain rice
  • 250 mls double cream
  • croutons, parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

  1. Leave the saffron tosoak in a little hot water. 
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the garlic, onion, celery and bay leaf. Stir. put a lid on the saucepan and allow these to sweat until soft. 
  3. Add the sherry, stock and the saffron and its soaking water. Bring to the boil
  4. Add the rice and boil until the rice is cooked. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Take out the bay leaf, add the cream and liquidise the soup.
  6. When ready to serve, reheat and top with some croutons, freshly grated parmesan and parsley.

 

* The learning is well motivated. The last time he turned up with a £2 aubergine, half the kitchen crockery was projected towards his head.

** The fact that going to Sainsbury’s and picking up a three pack of bulbs would have been even better value is beside the point. To do that, Goon would have had to walk for a whole 8 minutes which is, of course, unthinkable UNLESS I have given him some money to pick up some fried chicken on his way back.

***Or perhaps it had been so long since I’d taken a photo in daylight I’d forgotten how to operate the camera without flash.

****(geekery) My hobby: pointing out the flaws in the assumption that correlation implies causality.(\end geekery) 

May 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:46 pm

blueberry lamb rack 

Almost five weeks later, I’ve decided to emerge again. This really is a strange job. In the week before the A-level and GCSE exams began we were running around like headless chickens, photocopying papers, running late evening revision sessions and marking like there was no tomorrow. Now the exam students have gone and I literally have nothing to do, hence I am writing a blog post during school hours.*

Oh, the joy of having three year 12 sets and a year 12 tutor group. They’re all really keen and really nice students and, in the middle of May, they all bugger off on exam study leave for the best part of a month, leaving me with a grand total of 4 lessons to teach this week. The down side of this is that the absence of 6th formers means teaching lessons is thoroughly exhausting. This is because three out of my four lessons  involve battling with a bunch of hyperactive fourteen year olds many of whom, since the warm weather began, seem incapable of staying quiet for five minutes, let alone revising through an entire 50 minute lesson. However, when your job only takes up 20% of your day, finding it tiresome isn’t too much of a problem.

The change in pace did leave me rather shellshocked last Friday when I arrived home to a flat which would be empty for the entire weekend with nothing to do. It had been weeks since I’d done anything but work, eat and sleep and I literally had no idea of how to occupy myself. Could it be that I’d forgotten how to have fun?

Well, yes, actually it did seem that way, especially since the vast majority of my friends live 15 miles away on the other side of London. It reminded me of the time when I was at school in Kingston Upon Thames and at the weekends my friends, who were considerably richer than me, would be going horse riding in Banstead, leaving me sitting in my room with my computer for company**. At that age, I entertained myself with computer games, mostly the now forgotten graphic adventure genre. These were games which I convinced myself were for those of a high intellectual calibre, i.e. they involved a lot of logic based puzzles and very little violence. This is almost certainly why they died out by 1999.

So, fortunately for the food blog, the lack of games to play, and hence potential for nostalgic time wasting, meant that I was forced to occupy myself by buying myself something fun and exciting to cook.

I admit I’m rubbish at keeping up with what is in season but, given all the major supermarkets have blueberries on special offer, I assumed it MUST be the right time of year for them. In any case, it turnes out they work rather well as an accompaniment to a delicious, tender lamb rack.

Lavender and Rosemary Crusted Lamb Rack with Blueberry Sauce (serves 1)

  • 1 small lamb rack (about 350g-400g)
  • 1 level tablespoon ground lavender
  • crumbs from 1-2 slices of bread- enough to coat the rack
  • leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary, very finely chopped
  • some more rosemary- perhaps another large sprig torn into little bits
  • 50g blueberries
  • 50ml ruby port
  • sugar to sweeten the sauce- around half a tablespoon but best done to taste.
  • roasted new potatoes and a green vegetable or salad to serve
  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 7. 
  2. Mix the breadcrumbs with the lavender and chopped rosemary.
  3. Make deep slits between each rib bone in the rack. Push a piece of torn rosemary into each slit.
  4. Coat the meat in the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Roast the meat to required doneness, then cover with foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes. As a rough guide, my 500g rack took 18 minutes to be roasted rare.
  6. Place the berries in a blender. Add the port and blitz until smooth.
  7. Strain the blueberry/port mixture into a small saucepan.
  8. Bring the blueberry sauce to a gentle bubble. Allow to reduce until thick and syrupy.
  9. Add sugar to taste. The sauce should have a slight tang to it but shouldn’t be very acidic. Adding extra port may help if your blueberries were very tangy.
  10. Cut the rack into cutlets and serve with the sauce on roasted baby new potatoes and steamed asparagus.

*** 

Lavender and blueberries…. now why didn’t I think of that before! It seems a natural pairing in hindsight. I liked this idea a lot, so much so that I made Goon try it after he returned from his sojourn in Newcastle. Blueberries give a slight tang to the dish while the floral overtones of the lavender complement the unique fruity flavour of the berries. A fair bit of sugar is needed to mediate the acidity of the fruit. Too much acid just tastes odd with the slight bitterness of the rosemary and lavender. 

Now I should perhaps go and tidy up those posts i wrote during Easter with the intention of publishing one every few days this term. Then again, maybe it is too late to be posting about winter food, although looking at the rain outside, maybe it is wotrth reserving judgement for a couple of days. 

* No, really, I WROTE the post in school hours, then had to wait four days to sort out the photos.

**I blame my excessively geeky interests on this time. Few of the friends I made after leaving school are aware of just how nerdy I can be. However, the year 9s now have a pretty good idea of how bad it gets since I spent most of an evening (post 6th form departure) writing them a very authentic Star Wars based exercise sheet on standard form. My boss and I thought it was really cool. Only one of the year 9s agreed.