Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 4

A day working at home, which for me means tying to limit my excursions into the kitchen!

Breakfast was just some toast made from bread straight from the freezer. I don't each much bread so just buy a reduced price loaf when I see one and stick it straight in the freezer.

Lunch was fried duck liver with pan juices. Seems odd, I know, but this was actually using up leftovers from the weekend. I'd made stock from duck giblets I had in the freezer. I hadn't used the liver as it adds a bitterness to the stock. 

I fancied something reasonably healthy for diner, with a vague memory of a Rachel Khoo recipe at the back of my mind, I decided on a roast autumnal vegetable medley with a goat's cheese mousse.

This was great: seasonal, tasty and healthy(ish). It isn't really worth writing up a recipe because it was so easy. Essentially I chopped up two carrots, a bunch of beetroots, two parsnips, an apple, a pear and a red onion into mouth-sized chunks. Liberally coated the lot in olive oil and salt and roasted until tender. For the goat's cheese mousse I broke down about 2oz of soft goat's cheese with a dash of milk. Then folded in some whipped double cream (using up the leftover from Sunday) before adding a squeeze of lemon juice (from lemon segments from the freezer).

Waste for the day:
  • Peelings and trimmings from carrots, parsnips, apple, pear, beetroot and onion - unavoidable.
(I ate the rind from the goat's cheese in a pita bread (from the freezer) while waiting for the veg to roast.)

  • Half my baked veg and mousse - that's lunch tomorrow sorted
  • Goat's cheese - weekend lunch here we come

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 3

Day three of the food waste challenge and breakfast and lunch were pretty much the same as yesterday. I'm beginning to realise that by doing this is really going to reveal that I am much more of a creature of habit than I think I am...

Slightly more interestingly, I was aiming to use up the cabbage from Sunday for dinner today. Now cabbage is a great side dish (especially with some lardons or chestnuts) but I was looking for a recipe that would incorporate cabbage. A quick search and I found this recipe for a Brazilian bean risotto and decided to make it without the big slab of pork. Shopping list made, I picked up the extra ingredients on my way home.

This dish is clearly more suited to a pilaf rather than a risotto. I'm not suite sure why I didn't clock that. Maybe because I do love the therapeutic effect of making a risotto. Anyhoo, as usual I made two portions: ate one and froze the other.

Waste for the day:
  • Banana skin - unavoidable
  • Apple core - unavoidable
  • Water from can of kidney beans - unavoidable
  • Half a smoked sausage - that has weekend brunch written all over it
  • Two green chillies - left on the side near the apple and bananas in hope that they will ripen
  • Parmesan rind - left in the fridge to add an umami punch to something in the future
I do find having to buy packaged fruit and veg from supermarkets incredibly annoying. I only wanted one chilli and yet had to buy a  pack of three. I'm buying ingredients that I don't really want (and spending more money than I need to) and increasing the chance of generating more food waste. Intensely irritating. 

Here's the recipe for pilaf, I'd make next time.

Sausage, cabbage and kidney bean pilaf

250mls chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
150g smoked sausage
100g rice
400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Half a Savoy cabbage, shredded
1 red chilli, finely chopped (I kept the seeds in one half for a kick)

1. Sweat the onion and chilli until soft, then add the garlic and rice. Stir to coat the rice grains in oil and fry until slightly translucent.
2. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for 12mins, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if required.
3. Remove the lid and stir in the kidney beans and cabbage. Cook until the cabbage is done, about 5mins.
4. Season and serve.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 2

Not a very exciting day today on the food front but equally quite a waste free day too.

Breakfast was a bowl of muesli which I had portioned and taken into work. Lunch was  selection of fruit, a sausage roll and some dried fruit from a tub which I always keep handy to dip in to (exciting, huh?). Dinner was some a portion of ragu from the freezer with pasta (which I weighed out to give a correct portion size).

So my waste for the day was:
  • Banana skin (from breakfast) - unavoidable
The rest was all just packaging.

  • Apple - Left in my locker for tomorrow's lunch.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 1

Have you heard of the Love Food Hate Waste ?

It's the campaign run by WRAP to raise awareness about reducing food waste and encourage people to take action.

"Why bother?", I hear you ask. Well the answer is pretty simple when you find out over 7.2million tonnes of food is thrown away from UK households every year.

The annual Love Food Hate Waste week at work is coming up (you know what they say about not talking the talk if you can't walk the walk...) and I've volunteered to try and go waste free for a week.

Now, I'm not really too phased by this as I don't think I really waste much food. I also think I'm a bit of an abnormal test specimen too. For a start I've got this blog so have more than a passing interest in food other than it being just fuel to I shovel down your throat; for me cooking is more of a hobby. (Rather coincidentally, I'm just making my way through Tristam Stuart's book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal). Also I only have to worry about myself each day, which is clearly quite different to fed a family and makes things (I assume) a bit easier for me.

If that's the nature side of things, then I think that there may also be an element of nurture at play as well. I grew up in a household where my mum and dad cooked dinner every night. Using up leftovers and making best use of all the food available was just something that was the "done thing". That philosophy has been passed on to me and I hate not to make the most of everything I've got.

Also having consulted my list of what's in the freezer, I currently have a 10 meals (i.e. things that I've cooked previously but deliberately cooked two portions instead of one, so that I have my own home-made "ready meals" for whenever I want) which I could just eat during the week, making me a zero waste hero, but that's not really the point, is it?

Anyhoo, let's see how it goes. I won't be keeping a food diary (i.e. listing all the stuff I eat) but will try and take more notice of what I'm throwing away at each meal time of the day and what leftovers there were (if any!).

Today being Sunday, I quite like to put some effort into making Sunday dinner and I fancied a pork schnitzel. Having made a list (as I always do) I went shopping for what I needed (including some provisions for lunch over the week).

I ended up having pork schnitzel with a mustard cream sauce (using up the final shallot I had in the fridge), with savoy cabbage and mustard mash.

Curiously, the Love Food Hate Waste portion calculator told me that I should have had two tablespoons of mashed potato. I find that quite a curious recommendation because I would prefer to know how much raw potato to cook to help me prevent waste: if I knew how much to cook I'd only cook that amount. As it was I cooked an entire medium sized potato, made it all into mash and ate the lot (but that's because I'm just a big old fatty) so there wasn't any waste.

My waste was:
  • Potato peelings - unavoidable
  • Outer cabbage leaves and stalk - unavoidable
  • A miserly amount of seasoned flour, egg and a few breadcrumbs from the schnitzel. Not much I could do with any of that as the flour has had raw meat in it, and the egg and breadcrumbs were cross-contaminated - unavoidable
My leftovers for the day are:
  • The remainder of a pork tenderloin - now in the freezer
  • Half a savoy cabbage - needs to be used up this week
  • Remains of a small pot of cream - needs to be used up this week
[Again at the back of my mind I have the thought that I quite enjoy the challenge of using leftovers up...]

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Malteser cake

So, it was just over three years in the making, but I finally made my version of a Malteser cake.

I know, I know. It looks pretty good. How good? Seven packets of white Maltesers and two and a half boxes of the regular good. That's how good.

The cake is a chocolate malt sponge, with a dark chocolate ganache and white Malteser filling. The frosting is a vanilla malt butter icing. It's decorated with a deluge of both regular and white Maltesers

It's a fun gateaux that is pretty rich. The malt and chocolate do work well together. The frosting is particularity tasty.  The trouble is that this cake is all about the look. It's a perfectly acceptable cake and people at work were more than complementary. However, for me it fell short of delivering the mighty malty flavour punch I was after.

Things to improve:
  1. Make a malt -flavour only sponge. When I made a couple of practice mini-sponges the other week I was trying to determine whether to use Horlicks or Ovaltine. The cakes were subtly malty but distinctively so. Here I think the chocolate and malt compete for attention, with neither really winning.
  2. The ganache was a little too bitter, so I think a chocolate with a lower cocoa solids is the order of the day, probably about 50-60%, I reckon.
  3. Equally, the layer of crushed white Maltesers was supposed to offset the ganache and bring in a textural contrast. I didn't quite use enough of the little malty ball to do this (mainly because I was so worried about not having enough for the decoration).
  4. I also tried a little drizzle-type addition by making up a strong cup of Ovaltine and brushing it over the cooling sponges. However, I was a little bit scared of making the sponges too wet and I'm not sure it had too much of an effect. I think you need to use a slightly firmer cake recipe rather than a basic sponge for this to work.
Still I've got half a jar of Ovaltine left to play with so I might try out some of the tweaks. Although I'm not I'll go all out with the Malteser covering this time.

Oh and one other thing, it's a right difficult cake to cut!

(You can also see my shiny new cake turntable in both photos. I am staggered at just how much easier it makes icing). Anyhoo, on to the recipe:

Malteser Cake

For the sponge:
8oz butter
5oz Muscavado sugar
3oz caster sugar
4 eggs
7oz plain flour, sifted
1oz cocoa, sifted
1.5tsp baking powder
3oz Ovaltine (or other malt powder)
4tbsp milk
For the frosting:
8oz butter
175g icing sugar (approximately)
2oz Ovaltine
1tsp vanilla extract
40ml milk
For the filling:
50g dark chocolate
50ml double cream
3 packets of white Maltesers, lightly crushed.
Decorate with as many Maltesers as you dare. Just be wary of how many it will actually take!

1. Make the sponge in the usual way by creaming the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs, vanilla extract and the Ovaltine (Heat the milk up and dissolve the malt powder before adding to the batter). Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and cocoa.
2. Divide the batter between two 8" pans and bake for about 20-25mins at 180°C (or until the top springs back to the touch, the sides are coming away from the tin and an skewer comes out clean from the middle).
3. Allow the cakes to cool and meanwhile make the ganache. Warm the double cream (either above a pan of simmering water or in a microwave). Break the chocolate in to the cream and allow to melt. Once melted, whisk the mixture until cool. Place in the fridge for a short while to set then whisk again before spreading over one of the cooled cakes.
4. Break up the white Maltesers and scatter over the ganache. Sandwich the cakes together.
5. To make the frosting, beat the butter and sugar together until soft. Warm the milk and dissolve the Ovaltine in. Add the vanilla extract and Ovaltine to the butter and sugar and beat together. Add more sugar as required to get a good flavour.
6. Cover the cake in a thin layer of icing (the crumb layer) and refrigerate to set.
7. Once set, use the remaining frosting to ice the cake liberally.
8. Decorate with Maltesers.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Here are a few things that I have come across recently and had completely forgotten to share:
  • Leith's are running a food styling course. It's seven weeks long and could very much help improve the readability of m'blog, well, the photos anyway. Only problem is it's nearly £500.
  • Burgerac is a razor-sharp blog about all burgers and burger-related matters. Great to browse, especially if you're in need of a burger in London-village.
  • Apparently bread can be made without kneading: Clearly I am going to have to conduct my own experiment.
  • I went to the Cake & Bake Show at Earl's Court a few weekends ago and was thoroughly under-whelmed. I'm not sure if that's because I only had an evening ticket, or not. Mind you, I did pick up a shiny new cake turntable!
  • It's my work anniversary soon, so I think a cake will be in order. Thing is I've got to live up to the last one. [Although the batch of brownies I took in recently did go down well. People were surprised that they merely have to ask for a cake and I'll probably make it...] I'm thinking of a cake that has been on my mind for quite some time (well ever since it featured on week 9 of the ICCHFC): a malteser cake. 
That is all.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Wood pigeon for Sunday lunch

Had one of my sisters over for lunch today, which is the first time anyone has come over for quite some time. As it's game season I had managed to get a pair of wood pigeons on Friday. I always think that having your own bird is like having your own private individual roast.

My normal modus operandi is to use a number of recipes in combination e.g. one for the main component of the meal (in this case the wood pigeon) then others for the accompaniments. For the first time I actually followed an entire recipe from a single source. Mind you, a recipe from Michel Roux's probably a good one to follow.

The "pigeon canoes with grape jus" from Only the best (Roux, 2002, p146) look like this:

Mine didn't look quite so refined (although my cabbage definitely looks better!):

Making the jus was by far and away the most time consuming and elaborate part of the recipe. It always seems that it's the sauces that sets professional cooking apart from the amateur. That and the availability, variety and quality of ingredients.

It was very tasty and I did have a reasonable sense of achievement although the sauce was little sweet (I hadn't completely compensated for the reduced quantity of grapes needed - idiot). Although the pigeon crown (or "canoe") was well cooked the legs were a little chewy. I'm not sure why (maybe over cooked?).

In quite deliberate contrast pudding was a comforting autumn crumble!

Essentially, I spent the whole day working out a menu (and writing shopping lists), shopping, cooking, eating and then clearing up. All in all a pretty good Sunday really.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Classy lunch: roast fig salad

There really are some brilliant perks of working at home. One, which I am exploiting on a regular basis, is access to my own kitchen to create a midday lunch of epic proportions.

Today serendipity lead me to making this humongously good salad for lunch. On Sunday I had randomly flipped over to 4seven and had caught a few minutes of BSG's* Ultimate Cookery Course and saw a recipe for roast figs. Whilst on Saturday in Sainsbury's I had bought a box of figs. I had some interesting left-overs in the fridge today including some rocket and blue cheese. The world it seemed was taking me down a path... this phenomenal salad of roast fig and blue cheese.

This was one of those times when all the components came together just perfectly: the earthy, sweet fig with a tang of balsamic, a fresh burst of lemon in the dressing, salty and tangy blue cheese and aromatic tarragon in the salad.

Let's not beat about the bush: I hit it out the ball park.

*Big Sweary Gordon

Roast fig salad

This would be perfect as a starter. (It being lunch I actually had the whole pack of figs in one go...)

Ingredients (The quantities here are a rough guide as I was just cooking with what was available):
For the figs:
4 figs
~4oz caster sugar
~1/2oz butter
Balsamic vinegar
~2oz blue cheese
For the salad dressing:
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1/2 shallot, finely diced
Rocket leaves

1. Melt the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan until a rich caramel is produced.
2. Take off the heat and add a know of butter, a splash of balsamic and some water to the caramel.
3. Return to a low heat, stand the figs in the pan and baste with the caramel.
4. Bake the figs for 5mins at 190°C.
5. Remove the figs form the oven and baste. Carefully cut a cross into each fig and place a knob of blue cheese in the centre of each. Return to the oven for another 5mins.
6. Meanwhile, make the salad dressing by mixing lemon juice, shallot and olive oil. (Don't forget to season).
7. Take the figs out and leave to cool.
8. Toss the rocket and tarragon in the dressing and place in the serving bowl. Put a fig in the centre. Dress the salad with some more blue cheese around the fig. Drizzle some of the fig caramel to over the salad and finally finish off with sprinkle of the lemon zest.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Chorizo risotto

Dinner tonight was a rather pleasant chorizo risotto. I love chorizo and risotto, so what could be better than combining them?

It was made in the usual fashion with the chorizo fried first to render out the delicious paprika oil. Onion and red pepper were sweated in the ruby juices before adding the rice. I had some rocket in the 'fridge so I topped the risotto with that and a drizzle of olive oil.

It was pretty good but there are definitely some ways to improve it:
  • Roast and skin the red pepper and add it it nearer the end of the cooking process.
  • Crisping some of the chorizo slices and reserving as a garnish would be a good way to add in a different texture.
  • I can't decide if a little spice, like a sprinkling of pimenton might add a little je ne sais quoi, or not.
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