Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for February, 2011

“Here’s one I prepared earlier” – enticing supper a deux

A recipe – at last!

So, I know you will continue to read for erudition and thought provocation (and to agree to disagree or whatever), but I was thinking “Why would I be bothered to return here?”. I have given hints and tips in previous blogs, but you would need to know something about cooking to be able to pull it together from the hidden recipes (which are in amongst the stories – but heavily disguised!)  I have always assumed that the only way I could get men cooking was not to scare them off with recipes.  Any excuse for a bloke to creatively avoid something that scares him will be grasped with both hands. (Women following this would just get on with it, wouldn’t you?)

I’ve had a request to be a bit more overt.  So here you are.

Beef Stroganoff (featured in Romancing the Kitchen and The Valentines Dinner)

  • ¾ lb. of Fillet steak (about 340 grams)
  • Medium to large onion – whatever is your favourite colour
  • ¼ lb mushrooms (110 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons of Crème Fraiche (buy half pint – about 300 ml)
  • 2 glasses of dry white wine – for the sauce, not you
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Nutmeg (you will need to ask for this, because you’ll never find it in the cupboard)

This goes with rice.  Rice isn’t scary.  You will find it in the next blog.  It also goes with roasted vegetables, or even mashed spud.  These will all be revealed as time goes on!

Get to that chopping board! Onions first – peel and chop into half-moon shapes.  How to do this is in available on my You Tube channel.

Remember – important thing is to chop the onion into half across the equator. Then chop like into cake slices, and peel them apart before putting into the pre-heated frying pan Get them frying slowly, in a dessert spoonful of olive oil. Move them about a couple of times. Meanwhile, chop the steak into worm shapes, about 3 inches long (Two of the women reading this are now remembering an awful occasion at a sales conference in Birmingham…), and wash and chop up the mushrooms. The onions should now be softening slightly, so move them aside a bit, and chuck in the meat and mushrooms. You need to leave it a minute, and then start swiggling the whole lot around, making sure the meat is browning off nicely. Now, once it’s uniformly brown, throw in two glasses of the white wine (about 1/3rd of a bottle), turn the heat down and let it bubble. After it has calmed down , spoon in the Crème Fraiche, and stir. Finally, grate about one teaspoon full of nutmeg over the top, and some milled black pepper. Serve on top of the rice.

I’d love to hear your comments – more bits like this – and the musings? also has more like this

A gastro pub extraordinaire!

We were visiting Devon over the last few days – hence no posts.  The weekend seemed to be centred on food (well, that shouldn’t be a surprise…).   And did we have a special eating experience to relate!  Not half!

I don’t know about you, but being of working age, most meals out tend to be in the evening.  This is probably why one of my favourite eat out times is the more unusual (and perhaps because of that)  slightly more decadent, sybaritic feel of ‘lunch’.

It has long been held that the best way to eat healthily is to do the following: “Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a pauper”.  This makes sense in a lot of ways – the more you take in as calories early on the more day you have to use them up.  People like Sumo Wrestlers, when extreme of mass is a real advantage, eat most of their calories just before going off to bed.  It makes sense.

Onto the decadent lunch time meal.  A place just outside Exeter – The Lazy Toad, in a village called Brampford Speke. Run with complete love by Mo and Clive Walker – Chef Proprietors.  Service is openly friendly and first name based, smiley and happy.  We shared a starter – Confit of shredded duck (from a free-range farm called Cready Carver), which had am amazing dressing – pomegranate and molasses.  I was desperate to order some bread to mop up the juices – but my wife convinced me that this course of action could dent my enjoyment of the main course.  My Pigeon Pudding – melt in the mouth, rich, steaming away in its suet pudding skin – was frighteningly good in a strong flavoured way.  It came with braised red cabbage (and tasted like a Delia recipe to me!), and Lyonnaise potatoes.  There were extra vegetables too, to share, including beer battered and deep-fried parsnips.  I think these may be a house speciality, and they are indeed very special.  J had  slow roasted belly of pork, on spinach and crushed potatoes.  It was so apple-y that I thought the Pig must have been a cider fanatic during their life.

I am a bit loath to tel you about this place – although it keeps winning awards (Dining Pub of the year for South West – highly deserved), so I assume any more publicity wouldn’t make it more difficult for me to get in.

Enjoy when you go.  Yes, we were well satisfied – and did dine like paupers that evening.

In praise of Cheating

Cooking and Eating – The “Can Men Cook?” way

In praise of – Cheating


I’m a bit of a Delia Smith fan.  She was vilified for her television series – “Delia’s How to cheat”.  She had nearly as much trouble with the one a few years ago – “Delia’s how to cook” – which did start with how to boil an egg.  She is not wrong to do this!  I think a lot of people get put off by chefs and their pernickety-ness, and the fact it just looks too difficult.


Last night’s cheat meal was a case in point.  It’s Tuesday night.  We have a busy household (two of us makes that sound impossible – if you have three kids and all their friends, but trust me, it feels like it sometimes!).  We both had evening appointments at different times.  Because they involved gyms and stuff, eating not too close to the time of the appointments was of the essence.  So, what to do?  J had her half of the de-frosted M&S mousaka heated in the oven first, and then I came in 90 minutes later and did the second half.  Yes, I know it’s not rocket science.  But it did mean we had a really tasty, filling meal (with mixed salad left over from Monday, and tomatoes) rather than something stodgy or filling up on cheese or whatever. There is a time and a place for dinner party food, and all the effort that goes into that.  Sunday Roast is still a sensible high point for many of us.  But you can’t do that every day.  But you can get nearly as good – at least as good as going out to eat at some places we know – by cheating.  I like to add to some of the cheating things.  It does feel like you are investing something into the experience while it is heating up!  The “Chicken Ding” mentality (“I put the chicken meal into the microwave and eat it when it has gone ‘ding’…”) is perhaps going too far.  But adding some accompaniments adds freshness and flavour for very little time and effort.  Don’t beat yourselves up!

The Valentines Dinner

It did go well, the beef Stroganof.  I suppose it does come down to ingredients, doesn’t it?  We bought the fillet steak from our real butchers in a local town.  As you probably know, this is the most expensive cut of beef.  It does taper off at the end – and most people want it to make a special meal around frying a gorgeously tasty steak shaped steak.  As we were cutting ours into strips (about the thickness of an old-fashioned wine gum, but 2 inches long (4o to 50 mm) (that’s for you young people)), I asked the butcher to give us the scrappy ends, as we were going to ruin the steak shape anyway.  If you look after your butcher, they will look after you, is my philosophy.  One other butcher friend is always busiest at Christmas time.  That mad and busy (and profitable?) time comes to an abrupt end with the cold lean wastes of January staring him in the face.  So he put up a sign, borrowing from a byline you will all remember from The RSPCA.  It said, “Your butcher is for all the year round, not just for Christmas!”.  Some took offence, but most of us understood both the sentiment and the gentle jibe.  It worked.

The mushrooms and onions were bought in a proper greengrocer, opposite the butchers.  I do love proper shopping, but only have space at the weekends – so the supermarket wins in the week.  That’s why they are called convenience stores, I suppose.  The Rioja was on offer at the local (small) co-op around the corner.

Yes, proper romantic dinner.  J was out at a night school Pilates class, so I was able to tart up the room and get the food ready for arrival home.  A tiny (half a glass each) bottle of Cava was a great start.  Bought in chocolate souffle finished the meal very nicely thank you.

Yes, of course it is nice to go out for a meal.  But I like cooking for my best beloved on Valentine’s day.  It’s all part of the romance, isn’t it?  We are going out for a special lunch on Saturday instead – watch this space.

Valentines Day – Romancing the Kitchen?

Many of the poshest restaurants close on a Monday – after their busiest three days, there is a need to recharge batteries.  There is also a long-held notion that the freshest ingredients are not available on a Monday.  This makes a lot of sense, as hunting, gathering and harvesting (and most pertinently, wholesale market ) activity is very low on Sundays.  So the dilemma for these guys?  How can we miss out on the jamboree that is the first big money extracting festival of the year as a business suffering the ravages of recession?

I’m guessing that most will not to be able to resist.  One of my friends had phoned to check on table availability at one such local food emporium.  Their set lunch is less than £20 a head.  No, they were not opening lunch time, but they did have a special offer for Valentines evening.  £95 a head, “which includes a free welcome glass of champagne”.  They cleverly have two different menus, with slightly different taste sensations for men and women (so I don’t know how they will cope with same-sex couples – not an easy question for your waiter / ress, is it?  “Which one of you takes the male role in your relationship?”).

I think I will take my free glass of champagne at home, so we don’t feel just a tiny bit ripped off.  Like arranging a wedding celebration.  As Richard once said – “3 tier cake, rich fruit, white icing – £35 all in.  Stick a model of the bride and groom on top?  £135.  The plastic costs £1.50.  How does that work out?”  (Yes, he is an accountant).

We will have one of our favourite simple meals tonight.  Beef Stroganoff.  Thin strips of fillet steak, half moons of slowly sautéed onions, with strips of flat mushrooms, glass of white wine when it is fried to pink for the steak, then a dollop of craime fraiche and a generous sprinkling of nutmeg (secret ingredient), with salt and black pepper.  Served with plain rice, and a hefty Rioja. Posh and fun and easy.

Hello world!

Cooking and Eating – the “Can Men Cook” way.

A Sunday of food sharing.

It was one of those days were everything came together.  I don’t know about you, but I am really quite jealous of those scenes we see in ‘continental’ films, where a whole family eats out under a glorious sun filled sky, imbibing and grazing and giggling and flirting.  Well, the UK doesn’t really lend itself to al fresco often enough.  But we do have nice warm houses, and our buffets should be legendary.  How do you get the relaxed atmosphere?  How often have you been to a gathering were the hosts appear ragged and near to meltdown? And food that is fought over never tastes right – have you noticed?  Maybe you just need a laid back Irish friend.  Picture the scene.  Dermot had set up a ‘pot luck’ lunch, for 19 people.  This was due to happen at Mary and Dermot’s house, a couple of hours before we were to set off to see another friend star in a musical at a local theatre.  The highly organised and anal amongst the guests were a little concerned about the lack of a menu.  “What if everyone brings the same thing?”  It never happens intoned Dermot, but without ever saying so – he just ignored their plaintive e mails, I think.  Pot Luck means just that, he said in one e mail: “If everyone brings food to share – savoury or sweet or both – it’s your choice – that’s -why they call it pot luck and a bottle of your favourite tipple, what you don’t finish you can always take home with you”.  Tagine of lamb, chicken liver pate, homemade (from own apples) compote, with parsnip bread, autumn fruit pavlova, cheeses, more homemade bread and more – and more.  Coleslaws, sun dried tomatoes on cream cheese.  And many ‘bought in’ puddings – which were absolutely fine too. In fact, they were grand!  We ate, drank and were merry.  And all because of a generous spirit of hospitality.

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