Monday, 29 March 2010

Pork Steaks with Fruity Red Cabbage

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This week in our fruit and veg box, we also received half a red cabbage. I like red cabbage but I had never cooked with it before and initially wasn't quite sure what to do with it. My fiancé insists that he doesn't like cabbage of any kind, but I was damned if I was going to eat half a red cabbage by myself!

Some nosing around the internet found me this recipe for Pork Chops with Fruity Red Cabbage. I thought this would be perfect because the apple and cranberry sauce might just make the cabbage palateable enough for my fussy fiancé. Also, I very rarely cook with pork and am interested in learning how to!

We bought outdoor-reared pork loin steaks rather than chops (I'm not entirely sure what the difference is, although the steaks seemed thinner than chops and tastier too), but I didn't see why this recipe wouldn't work just as well with those. On the whole, this is a fairly simple recipe, but I did have an issue with timings, as I got the cabbage on too soon, and being nervous about undercooking the pork, I inevitably ended up overcooking it. I kept the cabbage warm by leaving the lid on to keep some heat in.

One of the things that really surprised me was that the cabbage smelled lovely when I was stir-frying it; I am so used to the pungent smell of boiling cabbage, that this came as a shock to me! 

The pork steaks ended up a little dry thanks to my over-zealous cooking, but were still very tasty, and the potato wedges having been cooked in the same roasting tin as the pork were heavenly. The cabbage tasted as nice as it smelled while cooking: the sweetness of the apple and the cranberry against the slight bitterness of the cabbage was really good. And, yes, my fiancé did eat it and said it wasn't too bad, but he's not too keen on me cooking it for him again (at least not with the cabbage included)! Apparently it still tasted too much of cabbage for him! A shame, because this was a really delicious dish.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Plum Crumble

A short while ago in my post about Nigel Slater, I said that although I had a copy of his Real Fast Puddings, I had never made anything from it.

Well, today I rectified this and made plum crumble. I got some plums in my fruit and veg box this week, and I'm not really a huge fan of eating plums raw, so I decided to do something with them and this is the result.

I had less than half the plums required for the recipe, so I halved the ingredients for the crumble. I'm not sure if I could have done with making more of the crumble mixture or indeed using a smaller baking dish (although I haven't actually got one smaller), but, nevertheless, I think my first crumble has turned out quite well! Although the crumble takes 35 minutes to bake in the oven, it was very quick and easy to prepare - it took me about 10 minutes! If I had known how easy crumble was I would have made it a long time ago!

We have not eaten it yet as it's for later, but I have had a quick taste and it is sharp, but sweet and quite sticky and lovely. I'm not sure if it is a little too sharp and whether I have used enough sugar and whether the plums were ripe enough (although they seemed pretty soft), but I'm sure I'd happily scoff the lot anyway!

Friday, 26 March 2010

I've made my One Pot Pledge!

Garden Organic's One Pot Pledge campaign is now open for business, so I have signed up.


This scheme is aimed at people who have not grown anything or not grown much before. You pledge to grown one thing (I'm growing more than one thing but put my pledge as 'carrots' as I am planning to grow those too) and you get advice and tips as well as discounts and offers on gardening equipment. If you are already an experienced grower you can join as a 'Gardening Guru' and help new gardeners to grow food.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

My Favourite Food Podcasts

I am slightly addicted to podcasts. I subscribe to 24 different podcasts and I will probably never ever catch up with them all, but still I subscribe and still I go in search of new ones. I listen to podcasts on the way to and from work and most nights I fall asleep listening to podcasts. (Quite often I fall asleep listening to Woman's Hour, which my fiancé is convinced conveys subliminal messages while I'm sleeping, making me cook nice dinners for him!)

Anyway, a few of the podcasts I listen to are food-related. Here are my top 4.

4) Cooking with Paula McIntyre
This is a podcast of a radio show from BBC Radio Ulster. I like it because it's interesting and it's only 10 minutes long (the internet killed my attention span a long time ago), but I could never cook the recipes from it because I can't deal with audio instructions. It's something to do with the way I learn and the way I take in information: for example, if someone gives me verbal directions to a specific destination, I will find it very difficult to follow them; however, I can read a map just fine. You may well find this method of instruction suits you though, in which case, why not give it a go?

3) Food Philosophy
Food Philosophy do a mixture of video and audio podcasts at varying lengths. They're very American (for some reason Americans sound even more American in a purely auditory medium) - my favourite episode was when they were in Scotland marvelling at their "Scottish" breakfast of sausage, tomato, eggs, beans and black pudding. Only amusing if you're British, I suppose. 

2) Spilled Milk
This is the podcast from Molly Wizenberg of http://orangette.blogspot.com/ and Matthew Amster-Burton of http://www.rootsandgrubs.com/. It is truly hilarious and no episode so far has failed to make me Laugh Out Loud. Matthew and Molly have a great sense of humour and a great on-air chemistry. I recommend all foodies should listen to this because it is about food and laughter, and what could be more endearing than that? I also love learning about the weird American food I've never heard of: I spent most of the 'Milkshakes' episode wondering what the hell a 'malt shake' was. I'm still not entirely sure, but I definitely want to try one.

1) The Food Programme
I was so excited when BBC Radio 4 began doing a podcast of The Food Programme, because I was very rarely able to listen to it when it was broadcast, and inevitably forgot to 'Listen Again' online. Now all the hassle of remembering stuff is taken away, as it automatically downloads to my Zune software. Obviously this does not have the amusement factor of some of the other podcasts on this list, but for me it is must-listen radio for its informative and fascinating items, tackling subjects as diverse as school dinners, breadmaking, tea and cheese (the programme on cheese was particularly fantastic - there was a story about a guy who risked going to jail for importing French cheese into Australia!).

If anyone has any other food-related podcasts to recommend, I'd love to hear your suggestions; not that that will make it any easier for me to catch up on my podcasts! Still, I am never short of things to listen to.

Monday, 15 March 2010

West Midlands Food Bloggers' Meet Up

On Saturday afternoon a bunch of West Midlands based food bloggers (including myself) all descended on Tom Baker's (director of Loaf) house to swap foodie know-how, experiences, loves, hates, desires etc. I'm almost making it sound as if there were huge swathes of us, which isn't quite true; there were in fact five of us, which turned out to be a very nice number – large enough to be a proper gathering but small enough to be able to get to know everyone a little and to have a good old chinwag (certainly not large enough to devour all the food we collectively brought along, however!).

As well as myself and Tom (artisan breadmaker and educator), there was Louise of Comida Y Vida, new blogger and Spanish food aficinado; Wendy of Peter's Yard, who make the scrummiest Swedish crispbead I have ever tasted; and last, but certainly not least, Jo of Jo's Kitchen, who diligently organised the event and keeps a delicious-looking recipe-filled blog. What I particularly enjoyed about this gathering of people was, not only meeting some like-minded and lovely people in the local area, but also the different foodie backgrounds that everyone was from and the different interests everyone had and was able to contribute to our meet-up.

But, onto the important stuff: the FOOD. For starters Wendy had kindly brought along some samples of the Swedish crispbreads made by her company Peter's Yard, along with some goats' cheese from local producer Brockhall Farm Dairy. The crispbread does not taste anything like Ryvita and the like; it is very flavourful (nothing like cardboard at all!) and although the crispbreads are thin they are somehow quite weighty and substantial. The goats' cheese was a lovely complement being beautifully creamy and mild.

For our main meal Tom had prepared some dough and we had all brought along some pizza toppings. We made a pizza each in Tom's outdoor earth oven and shared slices of our creations. How we then managed to eat some pudding after eating so much pizza, I don't know, but we soldiered on.



I had taken a bit of a gamble that morning and decided I would bake some scones to take with me. I had never made scones before but fortunately they turned out well. They are so quick and easy to make! I've already made another batch for Mother's day and will be making more for a birthday next week!



Jo contributed some heavenly, indulgent Rocky Road (apparently the recipe is Nigella's). I took some leftovers home with me – my fiancé tasted a piece and then promptly scoffed the other two pieces, and is urging me to make them myself!



Louise had made a carrot cake. I'm glad I managed to try a small piece even though I was so full I was beginning to feel a bit like Mr Creosote in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, because it was undoubtedly the best carrot cake I've ever tasted. It was wonderfully moist. Apparently, Louise's secret is that she uses oil instead of butter. And, better still, the cake is low fat!

All in all, a wonderful day. I met some fabulous people, ate some gorgeous food and drank some lovely wine. What more could you want from an afternoon?!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

QI Fact of the Day

Yes, I am blogging again. Apologies, but this is too interesting not to share. In fact, I would say it's Quite Interesting:
Until 1800, cookery was so dangerous that it was the second commonest cause of death among women (after childbirth). Their skirts caught on the open fires of the hearth. Deaths were dramatically reduced by the invention of the closed range by George Bodley in 1802.

I think we ought to count ourselves lucky that we live in technologically advanced times. And a time where it is acceptable for women to wear trousers.

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Friday, 12 March 2010

Why I love Nigel Slater

I love Nigel Slater because his passion for food is so sincere and so unpretentious. This really comes through in his writing and, on listening to a recent edition of Radio 4's Food Programme, I was shocked to learn that he a) writes while he is cooking and b) hardly ever re-writes anything. Those are both admirable skills.

I currently own four of Nigel Slater's cookbooks: Real Fast Food, Real Fast Puddings, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch and  Real Cooking. All of these books are wonderful in their own ways, but Real Fast Food is particularly great for those of us who work full-time because all the recipes can be made in about half an hour - as Nigel Slater himself points out, about the time it would take to oven-cook many ready-meals. And all the recipes are made from real ingredients and plenty of them are superbly delicious. Who needs Delia's cheat book?

I also love the fact that when he was writing this book he didn't have a very big kitchen (see the quotation in my side bar), which just goes to show that even in the tiniest of spaces you can make great culinary creations.
This is Wholewheat Pasta with Sausages, Mustard and Caramelised Onions from Real Fast Food. This has become a favourite in our house and has become one of those meals that I start to crave every so often. The combination of mustard, sausage and onion is heavenly and it is so quick and easy to make. I tend to use more sausage than Nigel Slater says in the book (because you can never have too much sausage).

I have to admit I have yet to make anything from Real Fast Puddings; I think working full-time means my priority is cooking dinners, but I will definitely endeavour to make more desserts. Tender is great for growing tips as well as cooking and is filled with so many wonderful ideas for vegetables - it is a must for veg-lovers. Real Cooking is good for classic dishes - I've done a lovely roast chicken recipe from it.

I have Suz at Serenely Full to thank for my discovery of Nigel Slater, as she was the one who recommended his books to me. Which cookbooks/chefs inspire you and why?

Free seeds!

Continuing in my vein of growing things, I thought I'd share this link with you. If you go to the BBC Dig In website you can apply for some free seeds: french bean, basil, mixed salad, carrot, and courgette.

Anyone can apply, and if you've not grown anything before, why not give it a go? I'm managing it so far, which means anyone can do it! And think of the lovely things you could make with those ingredients!

As a bonus, here is a picture of my tomato seedlings:

Post about fully-grown edible food coming soon, I promise!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Seedlings!

It was another beautiful day here in the West Midlands on Sunday and I woke up to find that both my lettuce and my basil have produced some super-cute seedlings!


As it was such a nice day, I decided (after my ongoing losing battle with some black mould) that a trip to the garden centre was in order and we are now also fairly well equipped for when the little plantlings make the leap to growing outside. I think we are actually quite fortunate in that our balcony has a very sunny wall at one end and a shadier wall at the other, so we can organise our planting accordingly.

I look forward to watching my seedlings grow and develop into adults, and I especially look forward to eating them!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

My first seeds

I've been meaning to plant some of my seeds in my propagator for the last couple of weeks now, but things have been a bit hectic and I hadn't got round to it yet. Today has been a bit of an unusual day because this morning I was in court as a witness - I had to take the whole day off work because you don't know when you are going to get called into the courtroom and how long you will be there. I was fortunate in that I got called in about an hour after proceedings started and was only questioned for about 5 minutes. This has meant that I've been free to do with the rest of the day as I wish.

So, despite being surprisingly tired considering how short a time I was in court, I decided to take the opportunity to do my first ever bit of planting. So far I have planted basil, tomatoes and lettuce leaves. I already have the makings of a lovely salad!

Obviously, there's not a lot to see at the moment other than compost, but I'm hoping that soon I will have more to show you! I have moved the propagator from the sunny spot above to somewhere that I'm hoping will have a more even temperature (I was a bit concerned that by the sliding doors might get too hot during the day and too cold at night). I am excited at the prospect of growing my own produce: isn't it amazing that from nondescript little seeds you can grow something so fundamentally important as food? Here's hoping, anyway!