Friday, 30 November 2012

A Few Jobs


There were a few jobs that we both needed to do so we set aside Friday for them, with the promise of a good meal to finish.

I had bread to bake, and I wanted to try a spice mixture for coated mixed nuts. Also there was the last of the Rose Petal Wine to rack, and I had to go to town.

So I made my dough, and left it to prove whilst I went into town, I made a white sandwich loaf, and some beetroot and onion focaccia (probably not authentic but who cares).

 Once again I used the oven proving technique that I found on the web; in the present cold weather it takes the uncertainty out of proving dough.

The wine is my last batch for this year, and was made back in October from the second flush of roses that we had in the short Indian summer. I had a taste as I siphoned it (Whoops) and it tasted completely different to the other batches that I made this year, but just as nice. It should be ready in March or so, after another racking and bottling.

The mixed nuts were coated in a mixture of icing sugar, Cajun spices (from an American gumbo mix that Amy brought back from New Orleans) and paprika.

They were cooked at 180 for about 10 minutes and left to cool. When the coating had set, I broke them up into pieces and put them into jars. Yvonne will decorate them for gifts for some lucky people; I’ve made sure that I get some.


The beetroot bread was delicious; we had a ploughman’s style lunch and invited Norma. There was some of my Mozzarella left, and garlic pickle, the bread and fruit. I’ll need to walk the dogs about 10 miles this afternoon now.


Supper tonight is a “Dine for £10” from M&S, Gammon and Mediterranean veg, with Millionaires Shortbread desserts to follow and a nice bottle of wine.

All is not as it Seems

It’s a cold but beautiful day today, after all the rain and wind of the last week. I’ve just walked the dogs around the cliffs and the sea looks like a mirror. The air is so clear, and the bare trees are standing stark against the horizon. A classic late autumn day; with high clouds and a low sun.

I had an interesting job on Tuesday, a large oil tanker to shift from Thurrock to Dagenham, a distance on the river of just over 8 miles.

BUT I had 4 hours to do it in; I had to leave the berth at Thurrock as another ship was due, and had to wait for a ship leaving Dagenham. I could have gone out towards Southend, turned and come back in again, but I knew of a place where the current would be favourable, so decided to wait in the river.
Ready to Leave Thurrock

Before I set off I spoke to the Duty Port Controller and he agreed with my plan. I said to him, “I bet that you will get calls from people saying the ship has a problem, when they see me waiting”

Anyhow it all went brilliantly, I found the spot off Erith, and balanced the ships speed against the current. And we sat there for a while. In the end I wandered up to Dagenham and arrived just as the other ship was leaving.
Coming Alongside at Dagenham

Tugs Pushing
When I got back to the office, sure enough, they had had phone calls from people saying that I was stuck on the mud, or otherwise in trouble. So if anyone saw me on Tuesday, off Morrisons at Erith, it was all planned.

A bonus from that job was a superb lunch of Roast Pork, with Boiled Potato, Gravy and some braised red cabbage, which I had never tried before, as I don’t particularly like the stuff. I was persuaded, and I’m glad that I did, because it was lovely, and unlike any that I had had before either raw in salad or cooked.

I looked online when I got home and found the recipe and it included onion, apple and various spices, I will have to have a go at it.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Blessed are the Cheesemakers!

I discovered a while ago, if you type “Chorizo and Roasted Vegetables” into Google, my recipe from this blog is in the top results! I’m amazed, people obviously like it.

I do cook it regularly, its perfect with a bit of sourdough bread to mop up the juices, and if there should be any left over, (another one of my things is cooking an extra couple of portions while you have the oven on) it freezes well.

Ideas for Christmas food, this year I will be making a lot of my gifts for family and friends, ideas include spiced mixed nuts, sweet garlic pickle, shortbread, and maybe even some mozzarella cheese (if I feel really adventurous). With the exception of the cheese, I have done all those things before so don’t feel daunted by the prospect. And I would rather show my appreciation of people by giving a home-made gift, than by handing them a load of packaging that they then have to dispose of.

I went to the tip with two loads of garden waste on Thursday, the bags were all full of water as well as the waste because I didn’t take them straight away, that’s another lesson learnt, as my mum used to say. About the only good thing I can recall from our last house was the fortnightly green waste collection, it’s one thing I do miss here.

When I got back from the tip the wind was rising and rain was on the way, I’m amazed that there is any more water up there, it all seems to be down here at the moment. I managed to pick what will probably be the last of the raspberries from the madly dancing canes; there weren’t a great number so I added some of the blackberries that I have stored in the freezer.
These made compote which we can have on muesli, or yogurt, and will remind us of summer, but not this one.
Although it’s fair to say that we did alright for berries and veg, the rest of the normal summer‘s activities were severely restricted by the weather.

 They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, well I’ve just watched Nigel Slater advocating the use of vegetable peelings in cooking, he made crisps with his squash peelings, but I’ve been using potato peelings, blanched and frozen, like that for years. They go well in hash or as oven chips as well. Having said that, I’m a big fan of his approach to food, and his al fresco methods strike a chord.

Yvonne’s made some felt bunting, with bead trims and cross-stitch motifs.


As it was tipping down on Saturday afternoon, and I was going to buy food, I had the crazy idea of making cheese. Nothing to taxing; maybe a bit of Mozzarella, just to see how hard it could be. I had a recipe from Hugh F-W that seemed straightforward, so I assembled my gear. Two Litres of Jersey Whole Milk, Citric Acid and Rennet (That’s it, apart from a little salt)

Well I can tell you now, it’s a doddle, maybe it was beginners luck but it all worked out as the easiest thing I have done cooking wise for a long time. You have to use a thermometer to check the milk temperature for the correct times to add or do things, but within an hour I had three balls of cheese, which seemed like a result.
Starting to separate

Draining the Curds

We had savoury mince for supper on Friday, done in the slow cooker with onion and carrot in gravy. I always remember it on ships (we had it a lot because it was cheap) with see-through gravy and hard pieces of carrot and raw peas. It was universally known as Unsavoury Mince.

Ours is nicer, and what was left, I covered with slices of part boiled potato and reheated.

Yum !
Pork Chops for Sunday, but done in my own inimitable way, “buttered” with stewed apple and covered with dry stuffing, then in the oven for 45 mins, wrapped in foil.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Catching up.

Excuse the delay, there has been a bit going on here. I’ve been adding to this post in draft form on a daily basis for just over a week, and I have had to edit it before posting as it all says “Today” when clearly it’s not. I’m also having camera problems, my main camera is not producing good close-ups and the camera on my phone is a waste of time for anything that’s not outside in good sunlight and a few feet away.

After the visits of Amy and Harry, closely following that of Naomi and Eamon, my larder was a bit depleted, of all the food that I had made, well the two litres of Baileys has about half a litre left, the two jars of Garlic pickle, Naomi and Eamon took one home with them and we had most of the other with a ploughman’s on Monday evening. Amy and Harry want me to POST them some in a plastic container as soon as I make more. All the Ice-Cream has gone as well, and the saffron buns. It looks like a trip to the shops is required to re-stock.

About a week ago I made a wholemeal loaf, and some cheese and pickled onion rolls. The pickled onions I found that were soft; I chopped them in the Kenwood, and added Black Treacle and a bit of sugar, thickening into a paste on the hob. This I mixed with the grated cheese for a filling for my rolls. It diluted the sharp taste a bit and they came out really nice.

 As usual I added semolina to the dough (20g to 500g of flour) and modified the liquid (320ml water and 50ml Olive Oil) to give a softer crumb, with a crunchier top.
I use Paul Hollywood’s wholemeal recipe but lard instead of butter.

I took the last of the pasta sauce I made from my own tomatoes from the freezer for supper, I will fry bacon with onion and peppers and mushrooms add the sauce and the pasta and cook until the pasta is soft. Good tip from somewhere, Nigella I think, if your sauce is a bit runny, cook the pasta in with it. It will reduce and thicken nicely, and save you some washing up.

I got a large piece of beef cheap, and it’s been sitting in the freezer for a while now. I will roast it on Sunday, with all the usual trimmings, there will be enough left for many meals, in fact after cooking and carving, I got enough for14 portions, all for a cost of £11.

After all my angst about Xmas and the rampant commercialism of it all, I did some thinking about presents and settled on an idea for a new hobby.

I’m going to be a Cheesemonger, or is that a cheese maker? I guess it depends on whether I make it for myself, or sell it. I have wanted to do it for a time, but thought it would be complex and expensive. After a bit of research, it doesn’t look as hard as I thought, so I found a cheese making kit online and Yvonne said she would get it for me for Xmas.

I had to check up on the need for a press, I know that you don’t need one for soft cheese, and I had the fruit press that I found in a charity shop, it all rested on the size of the moulds, and fortunately they fit in it. So that’s one expense spared. Now I have visions of producing all sorts of cheesy comestibles, no doubt the reality will be somewhat different. Watch this space for news in the New Year. There is such a good supply of top quality milk in Devon that I can’t wait.

As I said before, it must be the area, because I was never this creative before coming here, apart from the cross-stitch I did little in the way of hobbies, bread making was a job, but now that I’m not doing it to sell, and I’ve been on the course I do it so much better, I make wine and jam/pickles and write this blog. Also, I’m writing short stories and am starting the cheese project.

We had a good day shopping in Exeter yesterday, although my views on the commercialism of the season will be well known to regular readers, see post ."Bah Humbug" I accept that there are still things that have to be done. So I would rather get it over with. And now I have.

Good news is that we will  be together at Xmas, we were just waiting on Amy’s shifts, I’m off and so is Naomi, so we are all off to Amy’s. I am in the process of making Xmas food gifts, so I can do a few extra bits to take. I’ve been saving points on my fuel purchases this year and have a good amount for treats!

I tried using my oven as a proofing cabinet for the sourdough I made today,

and it worked spectacularly. I got 6 rolls, 2 loaves and 3 baguettes from the 3kg of dough which I made at 7.30. Thanks to the oven it rose much better than it does in the kitchen. I formed it up at 11.30 and put it back into the prepared oven. I will bake it when it has doubled again or at about 8pm.


Well in the end it was baked before midnight, and one stuck, so did not make a pretty loaf. But it was only for home consumption, and it will be eaten in chunks with soup so the shape is immaterial.


Monday, 12 November 2012


It’s really strange, but when I am in Gravesend I just don’t get the inspiration to write anything except my blog, which is factual and just a repetition of my mundane existence.
No I have to wait until I am in Devon to start getting the stories in my head, playing like a film on the back of my eyes, so quickly that I hardly have the chance to write it all down. I normally do a page or so, and then have to go back and edit it to try and make sense of what I have just written down. I shudder to think how I would have managed in the “Good old Days” when it would all have been done on a manual typewriter, with no correction facilities. What I really need is a typing tutor to teach me to touch type, as I only use a couple of fingers from each hand. Perhaps there is an app for that.
Anyhow, I am going home to a few busy days now, After Naomi and Eamon’s visit last week, (and as you can see they were welcomed by our dogs) and a trip to the park

we have Amy and Harry staying from Sunday evening, its Harry’s birthday as well, Yvonne has made him a chocolate and Beetroot cake, which she will ice on Sunday morning, and I’m making saffron buns and some bread.
My experiment with writing 2000 words a day when I am not at work has gone well. I did over 14000 up to the 7th, so now the revised target for the end of November is 48000 or so. The plan is that that will be the story, complete in skeletal form, i.e. just the plot with enough detail to understand what is going on. I will then have to edit and amplify it where appropriate to make an 80000 word complete novel. Then and this is the big bit, I will start hawking it around the literary world, or I may just self-publish it on the Kindle or similar. As that won’t be until after New Year, I can put that bit off for a while.
I only had one ship to do at work, a tanker to West Thurrock,

and I did that in the morning, so after a spell as duty pilot I stood by for a few hours, then when it was clear that I wouldn’t be required for another job, I came home. That was unusual because it has been quite busy recently, and there's nearly always a job at 2 or 3 in the morning to do before I can leave.
Back to the food, after the saffron cake falling to bits when sliced, this time I decided to make rolls, however I think I overdid the timing in the oven, because I didn’t get the desired result. Instead I got saffron rock cakes, which I hope will be a new trend?

They taste fine though (my tasters next door assure me of that) so even though they weren’t what I planned, they will be enjoyed.
The French bread that I started on Saturday evening also had its own troubles, for some reason the baguettes stuck to the tray, something that has never happened before, and one loaf was ripped quite badly. So (and this is the best bit about most cooking disasters) I destroyed the evidence. I ate it!
Amy and Harry turned up on Sunday evening and we had the cake. Yvonne had filled it with clotted cream and iced the top.

 It went down really well and we followed up with a take away curry and finished off with some of my Home made Baileys.
We are going to Rockfish in Dartmouth on Monday, for more good food, I do like people coming down because we can do the grand gastronomic tour, but it will mean more time walking the dog and/or cycling later.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Saturday again.

The plan was to make the Garlic Pickle, some Irish cream and some banana ice cream with choc chips. The last is only to use up the cream that will be left over. (Honest)

The first job was to steam the garlic, I’ve got the remains of my home grown that has been soaking in oil for a while and has a lovely golden colour, and the bulk is from a jar (99p shop) I thought steaming would keep the shape of the bulbs, even though I planned to chop them, I wanted lumps.
I steamed it for about ten minutes and left it to cool.
Meanwhile, I mixed up the spices and sugar, a couple of chili’s and some malt extract. I just used the list of ingredients from the label I posted, adding the malt extract to bulk it out. I had to thicken it with some Agar, but the taste is pretty good.
We had the flu jab on Tuesday, ever since we have both felt rough, with sore arms, headaches and generally a feeling of being a bit below normal. I have been out of breath walking the dogs, and tired.
This morning, I used my new Kenwood blender to chop bananas for the ice cream, then to blend condensed milk and cream for the imitation Baileys. It suddenly stopped working, and I thought that the fuse had gone, but the light was still on. So I called a well-known internet shopping company as it had been brought from them, and they agreed a replacement. Came downstairs and turned it on again, it only worked!
It turns out that if you run the blender for more than 60 secs it cuts out. So back on phone to ***** and cancel the complaint. Trouble is, by the time I got through, it was too late to stop the new one being sent and it’s on the way, so now I have to stay in on Sat to refuse delivery, and sign as “Not Wanted”. Wish I hadn’t been so keen.
We are having our Sunday roast on Saturday this week, as we are off to the Rattery Craft Fair on Sunday. Check out for details, Looks good.
So we are having a Nigel Slater idea, with a twist. He did Pork with Blackberries; well I am adding Elderberry Wine and some Raspberries to his idea.
I prepared it on Friday night, I soaked the scored meat in the berries and wine and left it overnight.

I intend to slow cook and pull it apart, making gravy from the juices, wine and onions. We will have that with Roast Potato, Parsnip and Swede, and some veg.
Well it tasted nice, but the sauce was a bit over fruity for our taste. The meat was soft and full of flavour, having been cooked at 140 degrees for 4 hours!
As I lifted it out, it fell off the bone