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This and That

29 Nov

Please don’t think I’ve not been busy in the kitchen! I have, I promise, but the offal has been a bit of a slow burner lately. Health issues and a natural inclination to scale the offal feasting back, mean that mostly we’ve been eating a lot of vegetarian food. Yeah! If you know me personally, you could see that as a Bad Thing – mostly because of my epic curried parsnip in white sauce episode. Kind of gross.

Yet, lately I’ve not managed to curdle white sauce with a parsnip. I did make some AMAZING parsnip burgers:

That’s parsnip and fenugreek burger, on a layer of red pepper and walnut pesto what I did make too!

I’ve also learnt how to keep my kale perky:

That’s right – kept in a pint glass of water in the door of the fridge, it keeps for BARE TIME. You also get new tiny baby kales growing in the middle and they are just so cute. So cute.

And that Waitrose labels the fish that is sustainable that it sells! I felt same eating these fishcakes.

I would like all fishes to have this label. BUT it is confusing because I saw some cod with that label (aparently it was a very specific cod catching area and method) AND cod is meant to be almost an endangered species. I still won’t eat cod. I don’t think you should eat any endangered species, even if the bit of it you’re eating isn’t. That’s why I don’t like to eat tuna nowadays. Some tunas are worse off than pandas.

I also thought people might be interested in my CURRENT BEST INGREDIENTS. Only capitals will do. I have phases in my cooking. The blood phase. The lovage phase. The aromatherapy oils in cooking phase. Some of these are with me long time – neroli in the Christmas cakes as we speak. Others – like lovage – are waiting for Spring. The blood phase, well, I will make black pudding and I will make it soon. The point is these are my current favourite things and if you have the (mis)fortune to dine chez moi, these things will probably be in the dishes. Maybe all together, maybe separately, who knows? I’ll keep you guessing.

So there’s Herby Salt from Dilston Physic Garden, Fenugreek seeds which are apparently a cholesterol buster and Nomu dukkah which I got in FPP parcel. I know there’s a lot of talk about how salt isn’t healthy and YOU’RE RIGHT, but we do need salt for our bodies to work and I reckon having a bit of lovely delicious salt used in either the cooking or the condimenting bit, you’ll be OK. Don’t eat it by the spoon though. Personally I find it quite strange ‘using salt’ because I grew up cooking without it (aged grandparents) and it wasn’t until recently that I began. Now I’ve flavoured some of my own salts: lovage salt, juniper and orange salt, rosemary and lavender salt. All are good. I’m working on an ‘Asian’ salt currently! Fenugreek has a lovely gentle curry flavour. I also love how knobbly the seeds are, like potatoes for Borrowers. The dukkah is basically ground up nuts and spices and I can’t wait to start making my own when this is used up. You sprinkle it on whatever you want – soup, stew, vegetables, burgers, all the things. A word of warning though: if you put it on everything, all the time, don’t be surprised that everything tastes the same. It is pretty powerful stuff!

If you’re missing me talking about fresh and juicy offal. Don’t worry, the offal is rising and I’m defrosting an ear as we speak!

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Foodie Penpals the Eighth

31 Oct

People should blates know the FoodiePenpals drill now. If you don’t, or have been on Mars, then you sign up to send a treaty package to one plumptious personage, whilst receiving your own from another gorgeous giver.
Lovely! I sent mine to Juls of the blog GoodGobble – so if you want to know what I sent, have a look over there.

My parcel came from Ali, who doesn’t have a blog (I think), but she does Tweet @alimaley and sent a great parcel! What was inside?

And under the stuffing …

Loads of things. I had a STUFFED BOX. Obvs quantity isn’t everything, but it is nice to have lots of things sometimes. I live in the twenty-first century, therefore I consume!

So there was a lovely letter, explaining about all the things and why they were there. Clockwise from the top we have:

Pink Himalayan salt, Manuka honey, Voodoo raw chocolate, Heinz tomato soup, sun-dried tomato bruschetta, Guinness Nuts, Asian soup mix with seaweed, Pomegranate tea, a Shrewsbury, Harissa paste, cheddar oatcakes

I immediately had some pomegranate tea and a raw chocolate!

All the things were things I’d looked at, or already used, which was lovely. The pink sea salt I in fact sent tomy very first foodiepenpal. The other really exciting thing was the raw chocolate. I’m very interesting in trying to be healthy and embracing different ways of eating and raw principles are really interesting. Ali gave me lots of great advice about raw networks in Leeds too. Anyway, raw food isn’t heated above 38 degrees, so amazing things are done with dried fruit and unprocessed ingredients. Raw chocolate does have a different texture to Dairy Milk, but I think its delicious. At work we’re discussing making a raw Christmas cake for us to all share as all of us eats differently.

Thank you for a great parcel Ali, I’ve been enjoying it all month! You’re a raw chocolate genius!

Foodie Penpals the Seventh

7 Oct

Woah there. Seven months of Foodie Penpals … Wahooza! Seven months of getting ace parcels of deliciousness to my door? Wahoooooooooooooooo.
This month I was paired with two Sarahs. Sarah who I sent my parcel to runs a blog about lots of things, but one of the most important aspects is her candid discussion of mental health. You can read about how she found the package at her blog ‘Make-up and Mirtazapine’.

My parcel came from another Sarah, who has her own writing blog here. And once more, what a lovely parcel I got!

I did my usual ritual of saving it and then settling down with a cuppa and some cake, for the unpacking!

What would be inside my box of wonder?

All the amazing things! Sarah had clearly read through other posts and worked out what things I’m interested in and what sort of things I like. She set out by saying that she tried to theme it around Rosemary and sent some from her garden. Then there was some chilli vinegar, some parmesan biscuits, some chilli chocolate, a liquorice bar, some apple and elderflower tea, some rosemary cake and a pot of dukkah, which is a spice blend that you can add to everything! There was also some interesting infomation about rosemary and how it pairs really well with dark chocolate.

A great box of lovely new things to try and lovely homemade things to sample.

The dukkah was pretty exciting – I put it on top of some soup I made this week, which made it super tasty! The soup was a lentil, home-cured pancetta, chard and cavolonero soup. Or a veg box special in a less-pretentious tone.

The powder on top is the dukkah, which is a blend of sesame, almonds, hazelnuts, cumin, coriander, sugar and salt. I really like it. Other suggestions are to dip freshly baked bread into it and to sprinkle it over salads and cous cous. Another flavour of dukkah that the company does is pistachio and sumac, which I might try to re-create at home!

I’m sure I’m going to create some more delicious things from this great box of tricks too!

Thanks again for another lovely foodie penpal month, if you’re inclined to join in, please go over to the lovely RockSalt’s page and sign up.

 

Moroccan Stuffed Spleen

9 Sep

Have you ever eaten spleen? I hadn’t until my recent visit to John Penny where I got given a fresh beef spleen to cook with. Prior research from the Offal Club’s page suggested from their experience that spleen was gross. Anissa Helou has a few recipes in The Fifth Quarter for it, which all sound very amazing, so I was excited again. Then I read in Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits that she expected that “if you like liver you’ll probably like spleen”. Damned by faint praise indeed. Never one to be deterred I got my spleen out and looked at it. The spleen looked back.

More disturbingly – how filthy was my cooker that day? What a slut! And look how long a spleen is. Long. So what does a spleen do? I always find that thinking about how the organ works can help you get to know how it might be nicely cooked. A spleen:

“… is an organ found virtually all vertebrate mammals. Similar in structure to a large lymph node, the spleen acts primarily as a blood filter. It is a non-vital organ, with a healthy life possible after removal (splenectomy). The spleen plays important roles in regard to red blood cells and the immune system. It also acts as a store of blood in case large amounts are lost. The word comes from the Greek ‘splen’ which is the rough equivalnet of heart – so to be good-spleened in Greek means to be good-hearted. In French, ‘splenetique’ refers to a state of pensive sadness or melancholy.”

Of course that infomation is from wikipedia. Importantly it tells us two things: the first is that as a filter, the texture will be spongy; secondly that if you eat it Greece you’ll be happy, while if you eat it in France you’ll be sad.

Taking the Mediterranean as a theme I used Anissa Helou’s recipe for Moroccan Stuffed Spleen as a guideline to work from, but incorporated EXTRA OFFAL into the recipe. That’s right. Offal stuffed with other offal. Just like a cheap sausage. Or not.

Beef spleens are huge, so I only used half of this one. Due to the nature of stuffing as a premise, I chose to use the fat end. So if you’re cooking along with this, cut your spleen in half, freeze the thin end and then we’ll peel the membrane off the fat end.

Removing membrane from spleen is not very easy. In fact, it’s quite hard for a novice like me to do. There was some fruity language and I cut my fingers a few times. There is an outer one and an inner one (or so it seemed to me). The outer one peels away using your fingers OK.

I tried a few different ways of getting rid of the inner membrane, but the one that worked best for me, was to pinch a bit of it up and to use a knife between the membrane and the flesh to almost chip away at it in small, frequent movements. (There was meant to be a video, but I deleted the wrong file from my phone, so you actually have five second shot of the inner spleen and it’s stupid clinging membrane.)

Once you’ve removed it – or if you’re clever – ask your butcher to do it for you (if you have one), but once it is removed you make a horizontal cut most of the way through (but not the whole way) parallel to the top and bottom of it. Your stuffing will go in this pouch.

Yup, TRIPLE OFFAL STUFFING WITH PORCINI. You can of course see some chopped lamb heart, some chopped lamb sweetbreads and some rehydrated chopped porcini. The porcini had arrived that very day in my foodie penpals package. I mixed these all together with 5 crushed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 2 teaspoons of paprika. Then I shoved it in the spleen pocket, rubbed the pocket with oil and baked it in the oven at gas mark 4 for 40 minutes.

This is pre-cooking – looks pretty nice doesn’t it?

Well, by this point, after all this effort, I was very hungry indeed. And how was the spleen. To me, inedible. That was the saddest part, despite loving liver I just couldn’t cope with the texture of the spleen – think liver but with lots of fibres running the wrong way through it. I couldn’t eat mine – I was clearly in France. Daz said it was OK – so he’s in Switzerland (is that half way between France and Greece? I’m thinking diagonally). The stuffing was amazeballs though. If you take one things away from this – heart, thyroid and porcini is a GRRRRRRRRREAT combination.

If I’d got the spleen from a butcher I might have thought that it had been hanging around a while. But since I SAW THE SPLEEN COME OUT THE BEAST THAT MORNING, it can’t be that. I’m plumping for spleen being better slow cooked (so the fibres can melt down some) – I’m thinking maybe some spleen and kidney pudding? Would that be nice? Spleen, kidney and porcini pudding? I have a feeling a slow-cooked spleen has fabulous gravy potential.

But despite the loveoly ingredients, I had to perform a splenectomy on my meal (LOLZ). Have you cooked spleen? I’ll have a little poll of the suet pudding …

And I promise to attempt to cook what you decide!

Foodie Penpals the Sixth

31 Aug

Woah, six months on foodie-penpalling – surely this can’t be true? Well it is. I might even collect all my posts in one place now … how do you like them apples? If it’s the sort of apple you’d like a bite from check out RockSalt for the rules!

This month my package came from Helen who has the Patient Gardener Blog. This is a lovely blog and Helen’s relationship with her garden (with other sides to her many interests too). I am a struggling, starting-up grower-of-things-that-don’t-immediately-die. Potatoes are my only continuing success … I think that’s my Lincolnshire blood seeping out. Helen’s blog is nice for me to read because she tries to appeal to people (like me) who are trying to have a go. She is also a SeedyPenpal.
So, what did I get? Well …

Yup, that’s some anticipation for you. When I open my parcels, I do try to make an event of it, so I’d brewed some tea and sat down with some chocolate.

Of course, I used my favourite Smoky Tea from Lahloo, my favourite Emma Bridgewater mug and some Rococo chocolate (that I found when I moved house – lavender flavour). Then I realised that I had probably morphed into being a bit of a poncy twat … and if I had read what I’ve just written I would be shaking my head in despair. But nice things are nice and I find it hard to write about savouring nice things without sounding like a tool.

Nevertheless, Helen sent me a lovely parcel full of great things:

I know, it’s amazing! A living sage plant, home-grown shallots, porcini mushrooms, homemade Cornish fairings (plus recipe), goji berry and seed mix, sesame snaps and two packets of tyrells crisps. Lovely!

Helen sent the sage because she felt it went well with meat – which is does of course – pork and sage is a classic, as is liver and sage! It was prescient (what a great word @carllegge) because my sage was/is dieing. Shallots are great – I usually use onions, so was pleased to have a new, fresh flavour to use. I love vegetable crisps and sesame snaps so two great ticks there. The porcini have already been used in my stuffed spleen (more of that another day). I’m toying with the idea of making my own granola because A) the only one I love is Mornflake apple and it seems to have disappeared from the shelves of Leeds and B) I can be proper fussy (as above), so I am sure the goji mix will get in there. Best of all were the Cornish Fairings which are a gingery, chewy biscuit. Super tasty!

I used some of the shallots up in a chilli-kale combo: put some oil in a pan, then add three peeled and quartered shallots and cook for five minutes, add enough kale for two people and one teaspoon chilli flakes and about a quarter of a pint of stock, stir and cook til kale is done. Yum. The shallots were well nice cooked with the chilli and stock – next time I’m going to just cook them on their own so they are a total star.

I have even managed to keep the sage alive for over two weeks!

It even stayed alive while I went on holiday. So Sandra the Sage I hope will live a long and happy life! What a nice forever present.

My parcel went to Switzerland this month – to Ratri who writes another lovely blog about food and her travels called NomadicFeastKitchen. Carol Anne and I recently had a twitter exchange about the worry that what you’ve sent in your eyes is quirky and thoughtful, can come across as weird and emptying out the cupboards-y. On that note, go see what Ratri made of my parcel …

And of course, you should totally join in here.

Foodie Penpals the Fifth

5 Aug

My lovely initial penpal had to excuse herself from this month’s participation, so the lovely Lisa stepped in at the last minute and passed the package on that she’d already prepared. Phew! I didn’t want Lisa to have to make a new one for me, so I received the ‘Learn to Bake’ parcel that she’d already put together with a note explaining why things were there, because they meant something to our penpal partner. I found it really interesting (because I’m nosy) receiving what was designed for another person. And it was a lovely package.

So, there are cake decorations, white chocolate, edible glitter, fancy cases, exotic fruit and a book on baking. Also (possibly a nod to the carnivory, was some tikka rub) which I put to good use making a very simple lamb neck tikka:

There’s the lamb neck and some mushrooms all tikka-ing away in the slow cooker (6 hours=curry-tastic). I literally just added the spice, some coconut cream and some water. YUM! And simple.

My package went to Fay, and you can read about how she found it on her blog here. I sent a real mix of things, but for my next one I really want to put a theme together as I’ve now had a couple of lovely Themed ones. Look out, next Foodie Penpal! Look out!

Foodie Penpals the Fourth!

28 Jun

Can you adamandeve it? I’m not sure I can. If you’re not on the foodie penpal bandwagon, you need to sign up for Rocksalt’s scheme here. This month I sent a package to Dan, is a non-blogging food person from Sheffield. My parcel came from Lisa at Sweet2Eat baking.  Lisa is very good at baking. Lisa is very good at icing. Lisa is very good at enthusing about the food-blogging community. Do go and have a look at her recipes – I’m am totally lusting over the coriander, ginger and mango cheesecake. And the Jubilee biscuits.

This is the package Lisa sent me:

What the devil did I get? Well obviously a recipe – this was for creamy bacon pasta, so I’ll need to make a bacon substitute (maybe that’s where the pig’s ears can come in?) and a lovely card …

I got some Rooibos tea (I’ll share that at work), some granola bars, some cherry biscuits, some dried cherries, and best of all two homemade things. One is Lisa’s patented hot chocolate mix. The other was two lovely sultana scones.

Lisa had wanted to put a Great British theme behind this (HER FIRST) month’s foodie penpal box. What could be more great and British than tea and scones in the garden? I just need to herbaceous borders to match now … It was especially nice to get tea and cake in a box as moment with my lovely partner have been rare this month and sitting with him in the garden was right good.

This June was too busy for me (moving house, working away a lot, sick family) so I didn’t have a chance to experiment with the recipe Lisa sent. I WILL though. I WILL.

Thank you very much, Lisa. It was a lovely thoughtful box and I hope you enjoyed your first one too!

Happy Foodiepenpalling everyone! And thank you Carol Anne for fixing us all up like a wee canny Cilla Black. Yup. Compliments are what you get here!