9 May 21

Disastrous week for me but delicious food for you; old-fashioned kedgeree made with a thick fillet of smoked haddock, tarragon chicken gratin with lemon and aubergine tagine with fluffy cous cous.


Back from our long weekend away just outside Chippenham in Wiltshire, setting off after another delicious breakfast of newly laid eggs, arriving home ravenous at about 3.30, so very late lunch of bread and cheese.

Supper is cold chicken with huge baked potatoes, the usual way in this house when the potatoes are halved lengthways, a lattice etched about 1cm deep, smeared with oil and a pinch salt then into a cold oven on a foil-lined, shallow roasting tin, the oven turned very high. Salad of crisp lettuce and pickled cucumber (click here for the recipe: Smoked Mackerel Pate with Pickled Cucumber Salad).


The promised rain was holding off, so instead of writing, spent the morning digging up the front garden ready for starting the Urban Allotment again and re-potting plants for the window ledge in front garden. Made a serious error by standing on a rickety garden chair to fiddle with the planter on top of the shed. The chair toppled and planter and I fell backwards, me landing on my back, the planter somehow swerved away avoiding a nasty smack in my face. Reader, it was terrifying but now, as I write nearly 10 days later, I am beginning to repair. Fortunately, I had Pork Ragu in the freezer, so it was a pasta supper.


I am drugged up to the hilt alternating Cuprofen and paracetamol taking the edge of the pain, mainly in the small of my back but I fear I may have cracked a rib. I soothe myself by making a comforting chicken gratin for supper. I’d left the remains of a white sourdough out overnight by mistake and it’s nicely stale so make 2 lots of breadcrumbs, one with the dough the other, chunkier, with the crusts. I’m definitely a bit woozy after a not terribly good night, the painkillers fading around 4am when I’m up for water. Not surprised, then, I forget what I’m doing as I decide to make a chicken gratin with the leftover roast chicken from the weekend. Instead of my usual way of sifting flour then adding the liquid to softened onion or leek, I start by making béchamel. Never mind, it turned out very well, more like making a fish pie, folding the separately prepared ingredients into the sauce and then tipping everything into the gratin dish.  I end up with Tarragon Chicken Gratin with Lemon. As I work, I notice how lanky the tarragon leaves look and taste one. It used to be that us cookery writers advised against being too liberal with aniseedy tarragon leaves to avoid its flavour dominating. This pack of tarragon and the past couple I’ve bought is surprisingly mild; a dish needs half a packet to pull its punch. Why, I wonder, has the power of tarragon faded or do my taste buds need more a stronger blast.


Backache affects everything I do. I know I have to keep mobile and Red the dog makes sure of that and walks at snail pace beside me, looking up with her worried kohl lined lurcher eyes. I’m not really hungry, well I am but only for toast; toast and marmalade and toast and cheese for lunch. By suppertime I know I will be craving comfort food and find a thick fillet of smoked haddock in the deep freeze. What to do with it? I suddenly remember Kedgeree and settle on making my favourite way preparing this Amglo-Indian rice and fish dish, with plenty of hard-boiled eggs and a curried cream sauce to avoid dryness. My recipe makes plenty for 4 good portions, so I have lunch leftovers as it is very good cold. I like it with mango chutney.


You won’t thank me for flagging this up, but anyone who has taken serious painkillers for days on end will know that one of the side effects is the system ceases up. Years ago my friend the Doctor’s Wife told me that aubergine is very good for constipation, so I decide to make Aubergine Tagine with Spinach and cous cous. It was absolutely delicious, the aubergine cut in bite size chunks and softened in olive oil then mixed with 2 large separately cooked onions, the two merged with chopped tomato, salt-preserved lemons, saffron, masses of coriander, pitted green olives with enough ras al hanout to almost blow our heads off. With fluffy cous cous and a goodly dollop of creamy sheep’s milk yoghurt (Woodlands is my favourite brand and it really is gorgeous).


Another meal foraged from the freezer; Bistro Steak with Make Ahead Frites. Out of laziness and longing to rest my weary back, I opened a box of M&S frozen frites and a bottle of wine but did cut a huge tomato in half round its middle and popped it in the oven. After about 15 minutes in a hot oven until partially cooked, I let it cool and then piled the sagging, juicy flesh with breadcrumbs mixed with chopped garlic and parsley. Back in the oven with the frites, this idea comes highly recommended with or without steak frites.


Lunch with The B’s family at his mum’s house to celebrate little Lara, the latest addition to the clan and The B’s first grandchild. She is whisked home to mum for her lunch and we tuck into mushroom soup followed by cold chicken and chipolatas, Liz’s fabulous cheesy baked potatoes, tomato salad with cheese to follow. Delicious. I love lunches like this. Back home and much later, we pig-out with a takeaway Pizza Express American Hot with extra pepperoni on Romano (thin) base. Still the favourite choice and the perfect stomach liner for the pill head I’ve become.