I’m settling back into writing My Week In Food after an on-off, mainly off, patch restricting myself to cooking and writing recipes, having no taste to write a journal of my week. I haven’t felt I have much to say and seem to spend an awful of my time cleaning, turning into a right regular Mrs Mop despite the slogan on one of my favourite tea towels; ‘a clean house is a sign of a wasted life’. This week begins with the best breakfast of the year so far, after a night staying at the very splendid Hambleton Hall and it’s time-warp grandeur. The rest of the week is unbearably hot, too hot to do anything very much but a huge boost for the growth of the tomatoes, courgettes and beans in the tiny, front garden urban plot. This week’s recipes revolve around them plus, mainly, fish with roast duck instead of chicken, so none of the usual ways-with-leftover-roast-chicken.
How absolutely wonderful to wake to a gentle knock on the door, someone delivering a huge, cooked breakfast to our little terrace in the Croquet Pavilion at Hambleton Hall. It’s a chilly morning but we still eat outside, hungrily tucking in. Red positions herself at my side and is soon scarfing down chunks of a prized sausage from my overloaded plateful; two perfectly poached-eggs, crisp rashers of back bacon, gooey, soft tomato halves, a thick slice of crusty black pudding and a mound of tiny, buttery mushrooms. We longed for more toast to go with this feast, instead the bread basket was loaded with pastries and miniature loaves like the Hovis mini-loaves of my childhood from the Hambleton Bakery. We have grown used to flat white coffees, so the sight of a cup loaded with whipped cream topped with grated chocolate was a bit of a shock and not actually very nice. To nit-pick a bit more, the orange juice was watery and didn’t taste freshly squeezed and the fruit salad was an artistic but rather silly arrangement of berries. We are definitely suffering from the-morning-after-the-night-before, so head back to bed for an hour before we check out. Two hour drive home, v late lunch of bread and cheese and some of my killer pickled onions leftover from Christmas. By dinner time, we are ready for the duck The B has ordered in, and it’s roasted without fuss and served with bread sauce, my take on French Peas with onion and bacon and quickly blanched chunks of potato roasted to a crisp, adding some of the duck fat rendered during cooking. This year The B bought a Victoria plum tree that is planted in a humungous pot and it produced five plums! We have watched them swell and colour and I have just picked three of them. Sliced off the stones, they are stewed with orange juice and zest, honey and a little water. We eat this nectar over vanilla ice cream from Fouberts, previously of Chiswick High Road (now High Road House) and now around the corner on Turnham Green Terrace.
First job, is to pick over the duck and make stock with the bones (plus carrots, onion, garlic, herbs). It simmers away gently filling the house with promise. I also dice chicken thigh fillets to marinade in olive oil with lemon, crushed garlic, thyme and olive oil. They will be threaded on kebab sticks later to barbecue and eat with quickly whipped up very garlicky hummus (recipe Lamb Kebabs with Hummus). I wrote recently (My Week In Food 26 July 20) about removing the husks from chickpeas for super smooth hummus and what a chore it was to do and one of my regular readers wrote to say that ‘chana dal from an international shop is chickpeas with the husks already removed. Makes the smoothest hummus.’ I haven’t searched any out yet but I will. With our kebabs we had some of the prolific green beans from the front garden mini-plot cooked French-style, again, with garlic. The beans are cooked slightly longer than usual then returned to the pan with crushed garlic sizzled in olive oil. The beans go with everything. Do try it. (recipe, if you need one, can be untangled from this simple lone supper: Duck with French Peas and Potatoes).
It is baking hot today and an Instagram reminder this morning of my gazpacho (thanks @rachelaliceroddy) makes me want to make it again. I have all the ingredients for a super-quick No Fuss Gazpacho and they all go into the jug of my super-efficient Kitchen Aid liquidizer and it’s done in minutes. I chill the terracotta coloured soup in an old sweetie jar in the fridge. We have some for supper, alongside fillets of megrim sole from a whole fish brought back from Newlyn, delicious with more beans from garden and peas. Lovely garden meal.
Another early start, the only way to get anything done during this muggy heatwave, The B leaves for Chambers with gazpacho for his lunch. I’ve defrosted two megrim sole, so the second is in the fridge winking at me, ‘what you gonna do with me then?’ Huh, I know, I’ll roast you then flake the fish off the carcass and make fish cakes Megrim Sole Fishcakes with Parsley. These are a huge success; very little flour and roughly mashed new potatoes with egg yolk to hold everything together.
The B takes remaining 2 fish cakes to his mum, now out of hospital and beginning to feel bonny, for her lunch. When asked if there was any food she particularly fancied, she told him she craves Dover sole and broad beans, so I go down to the fish shop and buy two Dovers for us and ask fishmonger to fillet a third, which I’ll cook later and will deliver ready for eating. I also buy a fortune’s worth of broad beans and make ours into Creamed Broad Beans with Bacon and Parsley, a long forgotten but favourite way of serving the allotmenteers vegetable. They are devils to grow, always beset by black fly and the return is low because there are so few beans in their furry-lined pods. Also accompany our lovely supper with M&S oven chips; a wonderful plateful of firm, creamy and crisp food, each mouthful to be savoured over.
Dinner at Vinoteca (www.vinoteca.co.uk) on Devonshire Road in Chiswick, our favourite local bistro. We had hoped to eat on the outside table or at the front window table but it’s cold and rainy, so latter is a no-no and former is taken until 9.30. So, we grab a bar table at the back of the room which I always remember was an electrical workshop when I first moved to the area, somewhere to take your faulty vacuum cleaner (Electrolux, long like a sausage dog) and buy spare bags (big cumbersome things). We decide on exactly the same two courses; burrata with peas and (peeled) broad beans with a simple salsa verde. Classy, pretty and very good; I described as very River Café. ‘Is River Café a verb’ asked The B. Yes, I said. In this case, yes. We followed with lemon sole cooked on the bone topped with capers and parsley and circles of crisp, battered deep-fried pale onion rings and a thin, light brown butter sauce, with a shared portion of chips. Boy it was good.
Each week The B has been buying big, miss-shappen, unevenly ripened tomatoes from Natoora. They sit in a basket by the window with brightly, deeply red little cherry tomatoes on the branch, little temptations to eat like sweets. The big toms finish ripening during the week and today I decide to make Tomato Bruschetta. I’m reminded of it by the River Café newsletter, a joy to receive twice a week and written, I like to think, by Ruth Rogers as it often includes photos of grandchildren, a credit to their family as they tuck into various RC dishes. Today I am tempted by tomato frittata, which I’ll make soon and bruschetta. Such a simple but wonderful taste of summer, the tomatoes lifted by salt, pepper, a hint of sugar (in my case), and shredded basil, the whole lot piled over garlic-rubbed sourdough toast splashed with olive oil and eaten with burrata or mozzarella. Quite delicious. I cook fillets of sole for The B’s mum, and pod then blanch and peel some broad beans (she likes them in their husk) to go with it, packaging both in foil parcels stacked on top of each other with a napkin to hold in the heat. We stay for a quick drink and come home to a quickly griddled veal chop with (more) beans from the garden and the rest of the freezer pack of M&S chunky oven chips. NB to myself; lay in more packs. They are so good M&S oven chips, possibly The Best.