The start of the second week of Lock Down 3, so not a huge amount of excitement this week. The highlight, when I’m not on the blower (6.30, glass in hand, is prime zoom time amongst my friends), I’m glued to Rick Stein’s Cornwall (BBC 2 and available to watch and recipes to cook via www.rickstein.com). Rick meets some inspiring food producers, artists and trail-blazers, doing less cooking than usual on his tv shows but what he does is very tempting. I particularly love it when he is in parts of Cornwall I know, like Perranporth (childhood pic-nics and horse riding on the beach), Penzance (a stiff walk from our beloved Mousehole, past the fish market at Newlyn), Port Isaac (cooking lobster risotto with Nathan Outlaw, for years Rick’s head chef at the original Padstow restaurant now with 2 Michelin stars in Port Isaac) and Zennor (a walk, visit the church to see the mermaid then a pint of Sharps at the Tinners). In and around his home patch of Padstow, he’s out fishing with regular suppliers such as Flea Thompson and on the Murt’s Shellfish boat collecting crab and lobster. Each episode is a wonderful advert for Cornwall and as someone who has had relations and holidays there since before I was born, I totally agree that Cornwall gets under your skin. I love this sort of food tv and Rick is the best. If it we weren’t in Lock Down, I might very well be down in Cornwall myself but that’s another story. It’s The Barrister’s birthday on Friday and we obviously can’t celebrate outside the house or invite anyone in, so yet another birthday put on the back burner. There’s going to be non-stop partying once we are freed from Lock Down. My photo for this Week In Food is from the Birthday Supper and shows Lidgate’s potted shrimps on a plate that won prizes for design and glaze for my Aunt (when she was Art Mistress at Grey Coat Hospital School in Westminster).
It’s a sad day for me. I am meeting up with the partner of my old dentist and dear friend Gordon Gardiner who died just after Christmas. The only way to see anyone at the moment is on a walk, so that’s what happens and memories whizz through my head as we walk and talk. Back home The B and I have Mushroom and Spinach Soup. It’s a murky beige colour zizzed up with a dollop of cream but the flavour is lovely and the soup very quick to make, healthy and perfect for dunking with crusty bread and butter. Supper is a favourite Sunday night treat; roast chicken with a few sausages, bacon scattered over the small-cut, roast potatoes, peas, bread sauce and gravy. This combo used to be my son Henry’s favourite meal when my boys were growing up and we had our Sunday lunch on Sunday evening, so everyone could do what they wanted during the day; in my case usually working at the computer. Anyway, that’s what we’re having, Lemon and White Wine Roast Chicken. Even as I make castles (the name my young sons gave to a heavily-loaded fork), I’m thinking about making stock with the carcass tomorrow (yes, I know I’m odd) and wondering what I’ll conjure out of my stores to transform the leftover meat into a second hot meal.
First job – always after a roast chicken – is to pick over the bird, setting aside the remains of the meat and getting the stock pot on. A couple of chopped carrots, crushed garlic and chopped unpeeled onion, leek trimmings and a few thyme stalks and the pan is left to simmer very gently all morning. It’s strained into a deep crock, covered and left outside to cook before being transferred to smaller vessels, covered and chilled before the rising fat is removed, the cartons frozen or fridge-stashed for later. I always pick the cooled carcass for the dog. She loves what I call the noggily bits; anything edible that isn’t bone. I have plenty of lemons and spinach so I make Chicken and Lemon Gratin for supper. It’s a quick, lazy recipe with masses of nutmeg and lemon zest rather than juice so the spinach colour isn’t too seriously dimmed. The gratinee topping is thick and will cook crisp and golden, giving onto a thin layer of sloppy leftover mash that covers the creamy, cream-free gratin thick with chicken and spinach. It really was delicious and comes highly recommended. I know I’ll be making it again.
I’m making a lovely, rich red wine stew this morning, one with mushrooms, finishing up all the wine bottle dregs that line up by the hob. I’ll cook it slowly and gently in the oven and we’ll have it tomorrow, re-heated, re-filling the house with wonderful aromas. The smell of Skirt and Mushroom Stew still lingers when The B returns from Chambers but I want something quick and easy for supper and once again decide on a variation of egg and bacon pasta, by which I mean spaghetti alla carbonara. I make it slightly different each time usually with short pasta, hence Gigli Carbonara.
There is still a hint of beef stew lingering and also of chicken stock but both are about to be zapped as I start marmalade making. I have enough Seville oranges for two lots, possibly enough for my needs. I’ve made marmalade every year for years and years but I still always get my recipe out and I can honestly say that On Seville Orange Marmalade is tried and tested. I am delighted to say that one of my oldest, dearest male friends, now retired from the NHS and a confirmed bread maker since Lock Down 1, has just sent me a photo of his first batch using my recipe. It’s a sticky and repetitive job making marmalade and there is no way of speeding it up. It’s a matter of gathering everything you need from a sharp knife and large pan to sterilized pots and labels, and settle down and get on with it. It will be ready to eat once it has cooled and finished setting but will be even better the longer it is left. We have the Skirt and Mushroom Stew with mashed potato (natch) and sprouts.
There is almost enough stew to make a second meal and I consider extending it with cooked peas and turning it into faux pasties – real Cornish pasties are made with skirt steak but all the ingredients are added raw. Instead, I nip down to the butcher and buy six perfect lamb’s kidneys, slice them off their white core, dust them with cayenne-seasoned flour, fry them for a few minutes until just cooked, adding a little red wine and stock, stirring furiously as they gently simmer. This I add to the stew and serve it with leftover mash which is brought back to life with a splash of milk and knob of butter, cooked carrots and peas from fresh. It was superb, possibly even better than the first time around.
It’s The B’s birthday and his mother has come up with a brilliant present by organising Lidgate’s (her butcher in Holland Park) to send a large pot of potted shrimps, brace of red leg partridge and wedge of Stilton (lucky me gets to share it). Unfortunately, their game supplier has let them down, so we get pheasant instead of the more delicate partridge, so there is a bit of palaver about delivery but the meal is fantastic. We share the shrimps with hot buttered toast, I make game chips, season milk (300ml with 6 cloves, 3 black peppercorns, pinch salt, bayleaf and diced shallot) for bread sauce and prep sprouts earlier in the day, so all I need to do is set the table and light candles for our dinner. One of The B’s sisters has given him two bottles of silky, peppery syrah wine and I’ve bought a bottle of champagne, so we have a lovely evening.
The B has taken the day off and the morning has flown by doing very little (as seems to happen in Lock Down) but before we set off for a constitutional with Red, we have an early lunch. One of my Sydney nephews has sold his very successful business (www.pedestrian.tv) and taken over a biodynamic/organic vineyard in the Hunter Valley. He’s asked me for help plan a toastie menu and my first attempt is Egg Mayo on Brioche. I like to season the mayo with lemon and Dijon mustard, adding little scraps of cornichon for texture and the sweetness of brioche toast, bread or rolls really suits the flavours. It’s in my top ten of sandwiches.
It’s ages and ages since I’ve had a hangover, but I’ve got one today and it’s unfortunate that we have a log delivery this morning. I’m up and dressed shockingly early in case he arrives at 8.30am as he did last time. We have a pallet of logs to unload, carry through the house and stack under cover in the alley that runs along the side of the house behind the beehive oven. We get a production line going and are done by lunchtime. It’s been drizzling all morning, so I’m glad I have plenty of Mushroom and Spinach Soup I made yesterday. I’ve defrosted picked crab (www.seafoodandeatit.co.uk) and have avocados, thinking this could be another toasted sandwich combination but just as I begin nephew messages to say, ….’hold the crab, we are miles from anywhere’. I make a quick, faux guacamole with crushed avo, diced cherry toms and shallot with coriander and lime, to go with a little carton of 50/50 brown and white freshly picked crab meat. We spoon both on hot toast, have a beer to chase away the hangover and set out in the drizzle for a walk.
Back home for a lazy afternoon and evening, binge-watching Rick Stein’s Cornwall with Nduja Baked Beans with Poached Eggs and Grated Cheddar balanced on our knees, Red curled up in front of the fire.