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

Archive for January, 2015

Sandwiches? In a cooking blog?

We’ve all done it at work. You pop out to shop, or canteen (if you are lucky) or have one of those mobile vans visiting…and you panic and still order the tuna mayo, because you cannot think quickly enough?

Or similar.

Anyway, we did a bit of role reversal on this last weekend. Pub lunch – splendid Ham egg and Chips ( and extra tiger bread to make a chip butty) (thanks Anita) at The Crooked Billet in Sheepridge Lane, Little Marlow. So we didn’t want a lot in the evening.  Instead of a pub sarnie in a pub, I made a pub style butty at home…

Now, most pub sandwiches are freshly made. Not so if you get them from the shops.  And they always seem very fresh, so I do wonder what they put in them to keep them ‘fresh’? At least in the pub or you make them yourself, then you have more idea what is in them.

We had been looking after our friends time share dog. Izzy doesn’t travel well, so gets farmed out to various dog sitters when Jay is away. To entice her into the smelly dried food, we bought a tin of tuna, which wasn’t really needed. So it bacame Saturday dinner.

You can also add a lot of flavour. I added:

  • A large spoon of Creme fraiche
  • Three chopped grapes
  • 3 chopped olives
  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • A half teaspoon of paprika
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • Salt

Mixed it all up, spread on buttered ( accept no substitute unless allergic…its sugar that makes you obese, not fat. Look at low fat products …all full of sugar!)

Added some crisps left over from Christmas do’s, and some salad leaves left over from previous night.

Hearty Butties!

Hearty Butties!

Looks tasty, doesn’t it? Well, it really was. Don’t knock them…it feels a lot better than bought ones – more satisfying, and probably better for you?

In case you are worried about our time share dog…here she is! (More people will read this now….and rightly so!)

Izzy, the time share dog

Izzy, the time share dog

Can Men Cook?

Well, obviously some of us do a bit of cooking. And I even published the book! (And if you want to see more, here’s the website.

When I first published, one of the reviewers was quite surprised that most of the recipes were cooking from scratch. “I’d assumed it was about getting all your food out of tins -you know, CAN men cook?

Well, no.  But I have really got into them recently, as the basis of hearty winter casseroles.  And the other beauty is that I’m managing to make the meat content minimal too, so it does feel very cleansing and healthy. And beans and pulses do have loads of fibre, protein, magnesium, silica, plus other minerals – and the little blighters are very tasty too!

Now, you can make this a bit cheaper than tins by buying your pulses and beans as dried produce.  I can never be organised enough to remember to soak them for 12 hours before cooking, so tins it is…The other positive is it minimizes cooking.

Here’s the ingredients of this week’s stew:

  • Tin of butter beans
  • Tin of Black Eyed Beans
  • Tin of Tomatoes (I used Italian Pomodorini cherry tomatoes…they retained their shape really well even in a well stirred and long cooked casserole)
  • About 150 g of Chorizo, chopped into little bits
  • About 5 shallots, peeled and chopped ( I give them a quick rinse in cold water, then put in a bowl with boiling water for a few mins, which makes them very easy to peel. The water left behind goes a lovely mid brown colour, and looks very tasty, so I used it as stock)
  • A few brown capped mushrooms, chopped into little bits
  • Chopped Olives – we just had a few in the fridge – went very well!
  • A few extra flavourings..teaspoon of lemon juice: a bit of dipping sweet chilli sauce; a few leaves of basil (always add to
    Winter was made for this!

    Winter was made for this!

    enhance tomato flavours) and salt pepper…

Fry the chorizo, shallots and add the mushrooms after a couple of minutes. I used olive oil. That’s the cooking done.

You heard right. Tinned stuff is cooked.  That’s what the process does…boils the content in the sealed can so that there are no bugs and it stays fresh for years and years.

Add the contents of the three tins.  And all the other flavourings. Bring to the boil, and leave it on a very low heat for at least an hour.

We had this for two days (and a little lunch). First time was with plain boiled brown rice, and day two with lovely mashed spud.

Don’t you just love winter?


You saw the pic in my sister Jeans Scouse. It looks darker than mine…and I had promised the liquor to be more colourless. I sent her the blog, and now know why!

Jean adds a bovril stock cube, and a dash of Daddies brown sauce! So it is bound to be a little darker.

Scouse will be like all other favourite locally famous or even national dishes. Think of Lasagne, or Biryani, or Spaghetti Bolgnese, or a welsh Rarebit. There are always going to be nuances, favourite secret added bits, or something mum always added…so you do. And maddeningly, even if you use the same ingredients, the end product will be slightly different every time!

And you will never hear such deeply held convictions about the right way to cook things as you will about these favourites.

Do your own thing.  And just enjoy!

Scouse – eponymous food!

Scouse doesn’t spell check.  Scouser doesn’t spell check.  You know the second one – many will – a native of Liverpool, having a strong sense of humour and fun, loves to party, and we all steal wheels from cars (stereotyping is quite nauseating sometimes!). But this recipe is where the name comes from

With traditional bits added...

With traditional bits added…

Anyway – Scouse is actually a hearty stew – but quite different from most stews.  It ends up with a colourless liquour, not dark like most casseroles.  We had it at my sister’s recently, and she added something that I don’t – and it does add a lot of flavour. The stew is quite cleansing, hearty, and lovely when winter draws on…

I am from Liverpool and this take on a mix between Irish stew and Lancashire Hot Pot is exactly where Liverpool is geographically.  I’m going to give you my mum’s method.  It is slightly different from most other instructions in my cookery book, because there is no pre frying of the meat.  Funnily enough, this makes it come out with a very clear soup like liquor, which makes it feel almost medieval in style, like it has been cooked over an open fire.

  • ¾ lb of stewing beef, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped cross ways, about ¼ inch thick coin shapes (after peeling of course)
  • 3 medium sized potatoes – about ¾ lb
  • ½ a chicken stock cube
  • Salt and ground white pepper
  • (Sisters extra ingredient – A large handful of shredded cabbage.  This disappears in the cooking, but adds piquancy!)

All you do is throw everything into a large stock pot, cold.  Add water to cover it all.  Sprinkle the half stock cube and stir in.  Add salt and pepper, bring to the boil over a high heat, then simmer for an hour, at as low a temperature as you can.  You will find the meat is melt in the mouth, the potatoes are disintegrating a little, the carrots are really bright orange and the onions have melted away.  The liquor is colourless – and very tasty.  It is more like a very thick soup than a real stew – and all the better for it.  It stays colourless because you haven’t pre-fried everything – so no ‘browning’ takes place

When family fortunes were low, the dish was made with no meat – and was then called ‘blind scouse’.

As you know, nearly all my recipes are designed for two – and the quantities above look too much.  They are – deliberately so.  This is a two day meal.  Once cooled, keep your day two half of the scouse in the fridge, (after allowing it to cool), and re-heat it the next day.  The whole thing will have evolved and fermented – the potatoes will have thickened the sauce up a bit because they will have broken down a bit more; the meat will be even more melt in the mouth, and the whole will be just a little darker and more homogeneous.  And it will be even better tasting.

Traditional accompaniments include pickled beetroot, piccalilli and HP Sauce.  And I have a tear in my eye writing about it.

To offset the excess – what??

We are doing the Dry January thing. After the excesses of Christmas – it does feel nice to have a rest!  Or at least, that’s what my liver would say if it could talk?

Fish and chips Phil style!

Fish and chips Phil style!


We started the detox (ish…) on Christmas eve.  Knowing what was to come – pan fried then steamed a small piece of cod each (steam by adding lemon juice to the pan, lowering the heat, and putting a lid on the pan – works really well). Chips – spuds chipped and skins left on, 5 mins in microwave, 30 mins i oil in the oven at 180. Mushrooms and tomatoes done in steam in the frying pan.  Sauce is the lemon from the pan huices – lovely – and cleansing!


After Christmas and the wonderful excesses of Carlyon Bay Hotel (including 7 course dinner on New Years Eve…), we resorted to the slow cooker, stews and adding a detox item – beans and pulses!  Also, we served them with brown rice – again, good for gut health…

Slightly hot turkey with chickpeas and curried carrots, butter beans and shallots.

Slightly hot turkey with chickpeas and curried carrots, butter beans and shallots.

The first one here has left over turkey as the base.  The carrots were microwaved, then had garlic, olive oil, ginger, lemon juice, chilli, honey vinegar and salt added.  I added some chilli to the turkey – and the beans and chick peas just soak up all the flavours – stunning.  Finally, we had a pork stew, with kale (cooked for 8 minutes in water, then drained, fried off a leek in the pan, and re-added it to it – kale tastes great with a bit of leek!). Butter beans and borlotti beans – all add to the clean feel.  Warming and tasty – and good for you.  Loving winter!

Pork stew with mashed potato and sweet potato

Pork stew with mashed potato and sweet potato

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