Enjoyably busy cooking week for me, making some of my autumnal favourites including another new way with meatballs, a faux chicken liver parfait and super-easy, super-favourite bavette with oven chips, whilst introducing permutations (a very good word for using leftovers) with my favourite Italian veal stew.
Lunch at www.goatledge.com, the colourful seafood hut and bar on the promenade just below where we are staying in Warrior Square, St Leonards. Battered plaice with skinny, very crisp chips over salad with various dips eaten swaddled up in one of their windbreaker ‘rooms’ with a drop of their very well chosen white wine. Highly recommended. We are back in London by late afternoon, very glad to know that the veal spezzatino (recipe One Pot Wonders; it can be made with pork – see later – if you have an objection to veal and is quite wonderful either way). I’d made the stew to take with us to St Leonards for Friday night supper but as we didn’t go until Sat am and wanted to buy fish in Hastings to cook for supper, it awaited our return. Served it with soft polenta (the quick-cook variety) liberally enriched with finely grated Parmesan and butter.
Turned leftover spezzatino into supper by adding stock and mushrooms so it became a big soup. Delicious with crusty bread and butter to scoop and slurp; a very good permutation. Permutation is my new favourite word. I’ve long wanted to do a book on leftovers and perhaps I will now I’ve got the title.
I am very keen on pork mince and buy it from my local butcher (Macken’s in Turnham Green Terrace) and from March Farm, the also excellent butcher at Chiswick Farmer’s market which happens on Sunday morning. I tend to keep a couple of 500g bags – sometimes split in two 250g bags – in the freezer for mid-week meals. That’s what happened today; I winkled out a 500g bag from my haphazardly organised mini freezer above my fridge. I had plentiful supplies of mushroom, so decided to make pork meatballs with some of the mushrooms, flat leaf parsley, onion and garlic. On the spur of the moment I added an egg for richness and a few chopped pitted mi-cuit prunes. The mix ended up very soft and floppy and needed to be chilled to firm in the fridge. Later, between wet hands, I rolled walnut sized balls and poached half of them in chicken stock with big thick leek pennies and thin slices of carrot. The mix looked as pretty as it tasted, a dish I finished with chopped flat leaf parsley. All told, I had 60-odd meatballs – so the second half were ear marked for tomorrow.
Today’s permutation is a different broth for poaching the second batch of meatballs, this time adding finely sliced onion, garlic and ginger, lemon grass given a good bashing to release the flavour and kaffir lime leaves from the freezer. Simmering the broth for 15 minutes then adding sliced carrot to sweeten the broth then later, when we were ready to eat, poached the meatballs in simmering broth with frozen peas and masses of chopped coriander added at the end. Went shopping to make stew for my son Zach who is in the middle of a kitchen makeover: pork spezzatino, exactly the same recipe as the veal original. He had it with cous cous as didn’t have any polenta. Big hit. Enough for a second meal, he reported.
I love beetroot and usually buy it bunched, boiling it myself for whatever recipe I decide on but this morning I discover a long-life sachet-cum-carton hidden in the veg drawer of the fridge. As it happens, I have a few roasted red peppers, ready skinned and de-seeded waiting for my pleasure, so I turn them into a super-quick soup with light chicken stock, the flavours zizzed up with lemon and Tabasco. Ate some for lunch and froze the rest in two cartons. The B comes home with good news so supper is one of my all time favourites: smoked salmon on Hedone (from Bayley&Sage in Turnham Green Terrace and worth crossing town for) brown toast with bottle of champagne (we are celebrating), skirt steak cooked on the griddle, rested for a few minutes then sliced in chunky pieces with big, fat crusty oven chips, roast tomato halves and frozen petits pois. Yum.
On Sunday I have a big family lunch and get ahead with all the shopping and some of the cooking because I’m out all day tomorrow, unlikely to be back until quite late. Big shop at Macken’s for two chickens, big plump ones chosen by master-butcher Rodney, a kilo of Cumberland cocktail sausages, smoked streaky bacon, a carton of chicken livers, a couple of veal escalopes and minced lamb. Made chicken liver parfait-cum-pate with sage and rosemary held in melted butter seal that will set hard in the fridge, froze the mince in two halves and stashed the chickens and veal in the fridge.
Up early, heading off for Kings Cross to catch a train to Sheffield to celebrate The B’s sister’s sixtieth birthday. It’s a beautiful bright, cold day and we change at Doncaster and meet another sister en route. She wanted to celebrate with her brother, so bought a chilled bottle of champagne and napkin-wrapped flutes with her, so, much to the amusement of the other travellers, our little group share various toasts and left the train in a very good mood. A big family lunch was very jolly and the food interesting and unusual at boutique hotel Brocco on the Park (www.brocco.co.uk). Very good hummus with shards of seeded crispbread was the perfect nibble and I followed with prawns in a not very tempura-like batter over sweetcorn puree with a few random toasted sweetcorn and incongruous sweet chilli popcorn. Main course was better, a perfectly cooked thick fillet of cod with an almond crust with crisp prosciutto sitting on a bed of spinach. The birthday cake was a technicolour glory, a huge, tall, round Party Rainbow Pinata cake from the Hummingbird Bakery in Notting Hill (www.hummingbirdbakery.com. Bright layers of red, orange, yellow green, blue and purple sponge with rainbow sprinkles icing, it truly is a technicolour cream cake. A tad sweet for me, but delicious none the less and a real show stopper.
On the train home, we decided we had enough time to do an urgent shop in Peter Jones then nip down the road to the Chelsea Arts Club for a restorative beer. We came out of the tube at South Ken to steady drizzle or mizzle as it’s known in Cornwall. We went for it anyway and by the time we arrived, The B and I were damp and grumpy. With minutes to spare we did our shopping and schlepped down the road to a wonderfully warm and cosy Arts Club with music blaring from a live band set up by the windows to the garden, rehearsing for later. One drink led to another and we ended up tucking into a steak and chips supper on our laps before the band started. It was a fantastic night raving it up to Charlie’s Angels, a tight squeeze of members bopping round the billiards table in front of the band, impossible to sit still to Unchain my Heart, Maggie May, Born to Run, Delta Lady and Come Up and See Me, not to mention Itchycoo Park and Mustang Sally. I have a vague recollection of banging my knee hard against something or other but danced through the pain, hardly noticing as we made our way home. Knee ligament injury, I was to discover, is a nasty business.