Another week dominated by my knee ligament injury. If I carry on as normal – walking the dog, cooking, shopping, writing at my desk, going to a movie etc – I pay for it. So I’m still rationing myself and trying to spend as much time with my leg up as possible. I find it very hard.
Strolled down to my local Farmer’s Market with Red (my honey red coloured lurcher) and decide to stock up with food for the week. Bought sausages for the freezer, steak, big mushrooms and potatoes for a stew, lamb steaks for GKW (god knows what) and minced lamb (likewise). Spent more time than I should – what with annoying ligament leg issue that should be rested – cooking. I need to cook, it’s my pleasure and I love nothing more than a morning making delicious treats. I have plenty of stock in the freezer – made whenever there is a chicken or game bird carcases – so defrost a couple for soup. Although I’d bought sausages for the freezer – laid out individually in a big plastic bag resting on a plate, so frozen thus and then the bag shaken, so they can be defrosted singly – I have a pack of stumpy, fat very meaty Italian sausages which I had in mind for supper. So, fried them gently whilst making a thick tomato sauce, adding the dregs from several bottles of red wine. I added a slug of syrupy balsamic vinegar to the sticky sausage residue in the pan, bubbled it up, then halved the sausages on the slant and amalgamated the two pans. Simmered for a few minutes until thick and creamy, I then added the second half of the big jar of Spanish butter beans left over from Saturday’s lunch. I shall definitely be making this gorgeous comfort grub again soon.
Decided to make a super-lazy-soup with a pack of boiled beetroot (without vinegar or any other seasoning) and two roasted red peppers, the long, thin pointed variety (Romano). Liquidized with chicken stock and a generous splash of Tabasco and lemon juice it was very good indeed with a separately poached egg. No little boys as its half term. For supper, treated myself to another helping of sausages and butter beans, this time with some cabbage on the side. It was even better cooked up 24 hours later.
Limped down to my much-loved local branch of Vinoteca in Devonshire Road (www.vinoteca.co.uk tel 020 3701 8822) to have lunch with a friend for a good old gossipy catch-up. It wasn’t very full, so I was able to prop up the leg and forget all about it. N had a little grilled mackerel served whole and looking very pert, with pink fir apple potatoes, kale and an anchovy sauce; a lovely combination. Out of curiosity, I chose crisp chickpea pancake with delica pumpkin, radiccio and Spenwood. The latter turned out to be cheese, a creamy gouderish cheese, the pancake very crisp and big lumps of roast pumpkin with bitter radiccio combined to make a lovely contrast of textures and flavours. Unfortunately we were too full to chose something from the enticing list of puddings that included black Provence figs, crème fraiche and meringue and cider brandy semifreddo with peanut praline.
By teatime I’m feeling peckish (my mother used to say I had worms because I ate so much despite being called Lizzie Lamp post). Discovered a friend’s blackberry and apple jam in the cupboard and had toast and jam with a cup of tea. So nice, love all the in-between snacks, like teatime and elevensies (not sure if that is the right spelling). I always have toast and marmalade with my morning coffee; what my old cleaner used to call my second breakfast. She was right. For supper I need more comfort grub, so prepared a big potato in the diamond jacket mode, halving it lengthways, cutting a narrow lattice and swiping it with olive oil with a pinch of salt. I always lay baked potatoes over tin foil (I used to always think it had to be shiny side uppermost it doesn’t) to speed up the cooking and put them into the oven immediately, before it’s come up to temperature. I poach eggs – including my second double yolker from Clarence Court Burford Browns – and fry thickly sliced field mushrooms adding scraps of chilli and lemon juice at the end. With Cheddar grated over the top, this baked potato supper is just what the doctor ordered.
When I was helping Simon Hopkinson write Roast Chicken and Other Stories he was still cooking at Bibendum. He used to come to my house early in the morning for two or three sessions a week and by lunchtime we were starving. Sometimes, if work had gone well, we’d go out for lunch (particularly Riva in Barnes) but mostly I’d pop a few small potatoes (halved, smeared with olive oil and a pinch sea salt) in the oven and we’d have them with very garlicky hummus and stingingly hot creamed chilli sauce. Sometimes I would make chunky potato soup, also with chilli, often with coconut milk and coriander. This memory flitted back into my mind when I was wondering what I could quickly whip up for lunch. I’ll post the recipe on Recipes here on the website; it’s blessedly easy and isn’t a soup that relies on home made stock but will be better if made with chicken stock.
As I riffled around in the deep freeze, I found a small plastic box with what turned out to be 3 or 4 chicken livers. Defrosted then roughly sliced, these were delicious added to very soft and sloppy onion cooked in olive oil and finished with balsamic vinegar. A splash of stock to slacken the mix then stirring in al dente pasta – I used tagliatelle-style brought back from Lemnos in Greece; almost a reason to go there, their flour is fabulous so pasta and bread are exceptional. Slippery, gooey, sweet and creamy. This was a real treat and easy to replicate without a proper recipe but will post one on Recipes.
Thoughts of watching Giri Haji tonight and conversations with The B about his sushi meals in Trinidad (of all places) puts me in the mood for a noodle supper. Mine is dead easy; stock flavoured with soy and chilli is the base for poaching bite-size pieces of chicken thigh with chunks of baby courgette (one of the last from my ailing plants in the front garden), shredded spring onion and spinach, all piled over slippery hot noodles in a deep white bowl. Remember when we ate everything from those bowls? Delicious slurp supper in front of the telly.
Another appointment with Nick the chiropractor, hoping it will be the last but it’s still out of sorts. Back to icing and being more vigilant about wearing the knee support. How sportsmen and women cope with such injury I can’t imagine. Anyway, enough moaning and down to the shops for Hedone bread, Scotch eggs and a couple of game birds for tomorrow night. I finish the fiery potato soup I’d made on Wednesday for lunch and settle on another baked potato supper with lashings of grated Cheddar and a couple of poached eggs. I have an unfounded hope that eggs will help my knee but I think the gels – Voltarol alternating with arnica – is probably more helpful. Early night.
I’m up in good time, icing my knee in the hope of reducing the swelling and taking ibuprofen to deaden the pain because The Barrister is due back from Trinidad. We catch the second half of the rugby match happening in Japan, us against the All Blacks, munching on Hedone brown toast with home made marmalade and my version of a flat white coffee. It was such an exciting match and there was plenty of time for me to take Red out for a walk and for The B to sort himself out before lunch. I’d laid in the favourite Scotch eggs (plain, from Bayley&Sage) and knocked up a salad of Spanish butter beans with tuna, diced cornichons and chopped flat leaf parsley, which, with Hedone brown bread, was lunch done to a T. Dinner was a treat of two roast partridge (stuffed with thyme, wrapped with bacon and snuggled together in a small pan with a cup of white wine, roasted at 220C for 15 minutes, then several minutes rest), highly seasoned (several cloves, bay, peppercorns, pinch salt, chopped onion) bread sauce made with white bread (always), gravy from the bird juices, very crisp oven game chips (3 large potatoes, wafer-thin slices cut on the mandolin, rinsed, patted dry and tossed in a mixing bowl with 2 tbsp vegetable oil and cooked for 20 minutes at 220C), and sprouts. Roast birds are my favourite sort of feast although, given the choice, I’d always chose grouse over partridge.