Category Archives: Food

On Sheep

Everyone knows they are a bit lacking in the brain department, so if I told you that there was a sheep with it’s head stuck in the fence nearly every day I was away this week you might not be surprised.

We arrived in Herefordshire too late on Monday afternoon to see the sheep that got its head stuck in the electric fence to receive continuous electro convulsive therapy: I am sure it feels much less depressed now. Whether that was the same sheep that got its head stuck the following day in the gate, I’m not sure and again which sheep it was that got all tangled up in barbed wire early the following morning is a moot point. On Thursday we had no sheep stuck anywhere at all – they had been moved into a big field nearby – bliss. Then on Friday we had a double whammy: one sheep stuck on its back with its legs waving in the air like a beetle and, a bit sadly, one dead sheep. The dead one had had a cough for a day or two, the vet had been called that morning and given it some medication and it had died in the afternoon. You don’t get your money back in these instances. Fortunately, the overturned sheep was righted by one of the children.

I tell you, next time you enjoy a lamb chop just consider how much manpower has gone into producing that meal. By my reckoning each beast will have had to be rescued at least a hundred times by some poor farmer before he or she turns a measly profit on the animal. Buy from your farmer direct if you can because it sure as hell isn’t Mr Sainsbury who treks out day after day to free the thicko sheep for your plate.

One that got stuck earlier

A sensible shepherd

The Bramble

A nice autumnal cocktail, but having had one last night I would tell the bar tender to muddle with ice and not give me a glass full of the brain-freezing stuff on the next round.

INGREDIENTS

• 37.5ml Plymouth gin
• 20ml lemon juice
• 12.5ml sugar syrup
• 20ml Crème de Mure

Build, over crushed ice, in an old-fashioned glass and drizzle the crème de Mure over the top. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a blackberry.

That much ice: it should be blue

I think drinking cocktails whilst waiting for the Great Spending Review is akin to fiddling whilst Rome burns, but so long as it’s funded by my Child Benefit payments it’s probably alright.

To be slightly more serious, I think that the Tories (there’s no Liberal anymore is there? I am beginning to think Nick Clegg is lying face down on a table somewhere in Whitehall) are starting to look a bit amateurish. They can slash and burn if they must, but failing to work out that 49K x 2 is nearly a ton is only going to enrage people.

Everybody out, the Brambles are on me.

I think the cocktail angle might mean Daftburger has to shoot me (for the third time).

The World of Rhubarb



I have been lucky enough to be offered a patch on an allotment which I am a bit excited about. I went for a look see today and do you know what I was a little overwhelmed. Within ten minutes I was feeling like I was at one with the earth, and half an hour and a spot of light weeding later I wanted a roll up fag and a real ale. And I am NOT joking. Nor do I smoke.

The patch is hiding under some plastic sheeting with a pallet type thing on top and some more dirt and weeds, but underneath it looks jolly promising. Obviously I need to plan my crop so I have been learning about hard to grow carrots, which might be more correctly described as too feeble to be bothered to grow carrots, and I have marvelled at the great sprouting runners on the soon to be rampant strawberry patch. I have gloried at the mini caulis and the soon to be bulbous artichoke. There’s so much to look at you’d really just need to go up and sit down and take it all in.

Time flew by. I think that might be part of the point on an allotment. For my vague gardening efforts I was rewarded with a true taste explosion masquerading as an ordinary tomato and I have come home with a bundle of good-looking rhubarb. It travelled home with me, muddy and all, on the passenger seat and I can truthfully say the smell was heavenly. I am going to make a rhubarb crumble. Thank goodness I’ve got out of the fish pie.

Things you think you will never do. AKA How Far Standards Can Slip

Oh yes I started this whole parenting thing with mighty good intentions and I have done my shifts at the Bringing up a Healthy Baby Factory with something approaching good grace. For example, in pregnancy, what else can you do for the little blighter other than avoid smoking, drinking and drugs and eat healthily, plus take your supplements. Then when they are born what else can you do except feed them as healthily as you can, at whatever hour they demand it, with reasonable grace whilst introducing cuddles and clean clothes. At this point I found it advisable to reintroduce drinking (in moderation) to my own regime and eat a feck load of cake.

I have spent whole weeks of my life pureeing any fruit or vegetable within arm’s reach. I have eaten mushy risotto, pasta and mashed potato dishes for my own tea for weeks on end so we were all dining with a modicum of virtue. When they are little kids need this, plus some love and then they need you to start telling them what to do. Or what not to do.

Then at some point the goalposts shift silently overnight and you end up having children with their own opinions about food. And you start to have to manage behaviours rather than rule them out with edicts and you start having to seriously model the adult you hope that they might become and somehow you get involved in so many “issues” that the time for peeling and chopping suddenly seems to vanish and the only thing you end up cutting is the odd corner (and pizza).

N.B. The Guv’nor won’t countenance processed food and neither will I really, but when the cat’s away…

Corners I have cut this week include:

1) Hot dogs and chips for tea – although I did cut the onions myself. But to my shame the hot dog rolls came from a shop I go in once every six months and I noticed that the sell by date was the end of October on them which made me suspicious. So I read the packet. The ingredients included that well know bread ingredient ethanol. Of course any self-respecting parent would at this point realise their horrendous mistake (cost £1.19) and bin the atrocity. With starving kids close at hand I did not. Dear reader they ate the heinous bread product. How low can you go? Lower actually.

2) You may have read about the family swimming expedition. Well I left a bit out. *Hangs head* The bit when the kids come out of the pool and are so cold and hungry that they start trying to eat each other. You know what’s coming don’t you? Yes, I crossed the road and took them in to the tarnished arches of McDonalds. I can barely type the word. The Guv’nor would have no truck with this obviously and went off to the nearest morally and nutrionally superior branch of Subway. Oh the guilt.

Well on the upside the Pope will be around tomorrow. Perhaps I can get me some absolution after preparing a penitent meal comprised entirely of line-caught fish and organically grown vegetables.

Just to even things up a little, lest you get the idea that all nutrional wrongdoing is entirely a makemeadiva enterprise, check this out.

Actually, now I think of it, that was on my watch too. But there is another guilty party: you know who you are…

Who’d be a badger?

Well I am a bit of one to be thoroughly truthful re the greying that seems to be going on at the front of my hair. I was thinking “Ok maybe I can get away with a George Lamb” but it really is more of a Tommy Brock.

But more seriously I’ve been listening to the latest news that says the Government have decided to let badger culls commence (reversing the decision of the previous Government) in attempt to prevent transmission of TB to cows – badgers being the No.1 Suspect. Tories do want Farmers Want is hardly a shocker though is it? What’s more interesting is that the Labour Government concluded that there was not a strong enough scientific case to allow a cull.

The method (s) of transmission are not entirely clear . In the past it was thought that cows and badgers weren’t having close proximity contact, rather that badgers were doing their business round feed troughs and presumably leaving TB calling cards that way, therefore badger proofing needed to be carried out by farmers. Not an easy job in itself. Then there was a small study done that showed that whilst cows and badgers weren’t exactly partying on down on an all-nighter in a field somewhere, there was a little case of curiosity perhaps killing the cow as a badger passed through the field on his trail. This allowed for the possibility of a cow and a badger breathing on each other to transmit the disease. It’s probably both: respiratory and alimentary routes of transmission.

But what to do? And why would you care? Well if you aren’t bothered on an animal welfare basis consider the fact that the Government is paying compensation to farmers who lose cattle to TB. Consider the fact that although many farmers fancy a cull, they don’t want to pay (or can’t afford) for it. Oh yes, blog reader, it will be costing us. So getting TB in your herd is a disaster for a dairy or beef farmer and the Public Purse, but will culling the badger (a protected species) reduce infection rates?

Well yes, but no. This report shows the short-term efficacy of a cull in the area affected, but that the increase of TB in areas surrounding the cull due to displacement of surviving badgers and the cost of culling means that unless you are culling regularly everywhere (all over the land) it is not a long-term solution. And that the cost of all this exceeds that of compensating farmers for the cattle lost to TB.

So round and round we go. Thankfully there may be another way, due to real science in the form of a vaccine. There is an injectable form that is used on badgers but it is naturally pretty time consuming and expensive trapping badgers individually to be jabbed. However, the very clever Dr Eamonn Gormley from University College in Dublin has developed, with a team of colleagues, an oral BCG vaccine that crucially is not destroyed by the super-strong acids present in a badger stomach.

I know I’m not being asked but I vote for that. If these culls go ahead we are going to make a few farmers happier, some more farmers sad and give a whole load of badgers a dose of cognitive dissonance.

“What you mean we are protected, but we are going to be killed to protect the cash cows?”

Watch out Tommy Brock

National Cupcake Week

This is apparently just what we need, just as the slumbering Union dragon swishes its tail in a cave somewhere. Yes people, don’t worry about getting a job, or losing a job, or having no money for the mortgage whilst your local banker is still getting a cosy bonus – eat cupcakes.

I don’t know about you, but I have seen (and sometimes bought) those fancy shop cupcakes and they are bloody eyewatering in price. And don’t get this cupcake drive twisted; no-one wants you to make them. Oh no, the initiative is to mouthwater you into buying the expensive versions from your baker and continue the onward rise of cupcake sales (up 16% on past years – does that mean we aren’t buying eccles cakes?).

The winners, 7 of them – click the linky, offer such delights as the Cosmopilitan and Cocolate & Ginger (sic & sic) cakes, finally culminating in the Banana & Mango Champion cake cooked by David Bennett from Leeds. His shop version the Passion Fruit & Mango retails for £1.50 which is bearable but check this out – the world’s most expensive cupcake created by ROX jewellers and Cupcake Glasgow.

With $150K of diamonds scattered on top I'm thinking it's not the cake this model wants to get her chops round

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Or you could just make your own. Cupcake Southend. Yeah.

Breaking the Fast

One of the kids has no compunction about this first thing, the other is a bit more tricky.  Not unlike me, she likes to come to a bit before stuffing her face (coming to is a bit aspirational for me actually) and an 8 am start at school rather precludes this luxury for her.  Nonetheless, I persist with the expectation that she will eat some breakfast, even a mouthful, before we head off.  Not much luck this week I must say.  She agreed to nuke one small pitta bread in the microwave on Tuesday rendering it fossil like and then tried to set about it with some butter and on Thursday was gracious enough to take a packet of mini cheddars in her bag.

I am not too worried as they get fruit at the first break (about 9.15) but I do fret about how a little brain will function on no carbs.  This is what has been on the rejected menu this week:

Eggs – anyway you want them but not poached or scrambled due to technical demands and time constraints, Weetabix, Cheerios, Yoghurt, Waffles, Toast, Cornflakes, Porridge and Fruit – all of which have been rejected.

This morning she consented to eat a pancake which I have duly made.  I feel like Mrs Pepperpot and I think the situation may be unsustainable, not least because at some point I am going to shrink and fall into the frying pan.  Now where’s my ekologiskt bryggkaffe mellanrost (organic Scandinavian coffee)?

Bakerman

I’ve had this song on the brain all day.

There’s a post that would explain why, but I haven’t written it. Synopsis in a sentence would be:

Mother & daughter (slightly lagging) detection team, spend hours on smoking laptops, drive to Grays (once infamous for being the town with the most pubs per head in the land) via Hadleigh and discover having three generations of bakermen in your family guarantees only that a lot of loaves are consumed – not material wealth or miracles.

We aren’t expecting the BBC crew anytime soon, but it was a lot of fun 🙂

Throwing a 1970s Dinner Party

Well to be entirely truthful, one set in 1969, by way of Fanny and Johnnie Cradock’s best guidance on BBC 2 accompanied by a treatise.  A book would be pushing the definition a little far.

It is quite fun to read, notwithstanding Fanny’s mighty bossy manner and much recourse to italics and !EXCLAMATIONS! which I know one editor would say makes her lose all gravitas.

There are some strange recipes to be had: Cheese Ice Cream, Snails in Puff Pastry, Sole Flans and Proper Toast, but I am mainly enjoying the guidance to hostesses at the moment.

For example

Corn on the cob.  Strictly speaking (and Fanny seems pretty strict to me) this should be eaten out-of-doors but if served at a table a wooden cocktail stick should be driven in at each end of the cob so that this may be picked up in the fingers and the corn grains are then nibbled off – which is

(a) inelegant and (b) dangerous to a woman in foundation make-up!

Melon.  This is controversial and may either be eaten with a pudding spoon and fork or with a dessert knife and fork, but never with a steel knife.

And not forgetting THE TABLE :

This short section covers the “HOWS AND THEIR REASONS” concerned in the giving of Dinner Parties.  Nothing is more irritating than flat statements as to what we should do because someone else says so.  (MMD notes here that there is no sense of irony whatsoever.)  Noting this, we have avoided the word “etiquette” and confined ourselves to explaining the straighforward pattern that ensures the cook-hostess and her guests enjoy the maximum of ease and relaxation during this kind of entertainment with never a thought of those disagreeable twins Grandeur and Pretension.

So now you know.

P.S. Cold toast is always an abomination!

I detect a pinch of irony!

Monday Morning Moorish Recipe

I tried to shoo Monday out the front door but, as usual, it was having none of it.   So I am left with the task of sharing a Monday morningish recipe from a collection by John the 4th Marquis of Bute, published in the mid 50s. 

Khubz al Jarade / Locust Bread

The best way to catch locusts is to repair to the nearest wall, the higher the better.  Here, if the season be propitious, numbers of these insects will be found flying with such force against the wall that many will fall senseless to the ground.

Of those that fall, pick up the females – they are easily distinguished from the males in being somewhat larger and rather lighter in colour.  Pull off the head as the head is pulled off a shrimp.  The squeeze the body and there will exude the eggs, like dark and diminutive caviare, to the amount of nearly a teaspoonful from each animal (I think he means insect).  When half a kilo of this spawn has been obtained (how many teaspoons would you say that is???) in a small basin, mix with half a kilo of flour and bake into small loaves.  (I am a bit concerned about the Marquis of Bute’s bakery skills now.)

Those who wish to enjoy this dish should be careful not to let an opportunity pass, as these little beasts make their visitation to the North of Morocco, at least, every nine years only.  The last swarm occured in Tangier in A.D. 1947 (th year of the Hegria, 1367).

So now you know.  And if you are short on swarming locusts  perhaps you could improvise with flying ants or something…