Saturday saw the purchase of a new frying pan. To be fair, the old one had 1) lost its handle, necessitating complex and dangerous manoeuvres with a folded tea-towel over the hand to move it around the hob, and 2) was older than I am (another refugee from my Nan’s kitchen), and had got somewhat manky, beyond the ability of hot water and soap to fully cleanse.
Emboldened by my new purchase, I decided to experiment by picking up a couple of packs of grains I’ve not really tried to cook with before; pearl barley, and buckwheat. I dug around the internet for buckwheat recipes, and in the end gave up and improvised my own, which I think came out not too badly….
Egg-fried buckwheat with mushrooms and tomatoes
Moving back into my own place has meant a bit of adjustment in the food shopping. We all like our fresh veggies in our family (although I’m the only vegetarian), and sharing a house with the family meant that odds and ends of vegetables were generally sucked up by someone. I’d put pretty much anything into a stir-fry, or a vegetable bake. Halves of tomato and ends of cucumber would end up in a greek-style salad for Dad’s lunch. One-third of a bag of fresh spinach leaves would make a mysterious, apparently self-propelled journey out of the fridge and over to my sister’s house (surprisingly mobile, spinach).
Last week’s Aubergine Challenge threw the meal plans I’d constructed last time I went shopping, completely out of whack. And of course there’s noone else here to mop up the excess. So now there’s half a box of mushrooms, somewhat on the turn, plus half a massive sweetpotato. And as the sweetpotato is pinioning a pack of spinach, I’ll have to eat that as well, otherwise it’ll be out of the house via the catflap before you can so much as uncork the olive oil.
I shall consult the pile of ripped-out magazine recipes…..
Shockingly blue skies and warm spring sunshine greeted us yesterday. People advanced outside, warily, slowly, in case it was a trick…..
……and then hit the shops en masse for bread rolls, burgers, sausages, and barbecue firelighters. I was due to visit my sister for our usual Saturday night dose of dodgy tv (current favourites, Dr Who, The Voice, Casualty and Bluestone 42), and so ensued a complex dance via-text-message that if YOU get the veggie burgers from the bottom shelf of the freezer at the parents’ house, AND if I buy burger baps and cheese on my way over and IF you can get the bloody hamster back in its cage before it ends up on the BBQ on a stick, then we can have BBQ for dinner. And watch Dr Who, The Voice, Casualty and Bluestone 42. And eat more BBQ.
And we ate like KINGS….baked potatoes dripping with margarine, celery, tomato, feta, cucumber and radish salad, beetroot slices, cheese slices, BBQ-d veggie burgers/meatavarian sausages (depending on personal taste), white burger baps, fried onion…even the hamster got half a cucumber slice. Amazing what a little charcoal smoke and ultra-violet radiation will do for a meal.
Yes, I might have fallen off my No-Cheese wagon. But as this could easily be the only sunny day of 2013, I don’t feel too guilty.
This was however a slight interruption to Week of the Aubergine, the final recipe for which is below the cut…..
Bit more a success this time – Aubergine and Bean Stew
Right, let’s get the aubergine cliche dish out the way.
Moussaka (what a lovely name for a girl!), seems to exist in various forms across the Mediterranean, Turkey, the Balkans, and the Arabic countries. Presumably because a combination of aubergine, olive oil, tomatoes, spices/herbs and mince is a winner in the tasty-yet-economic stakes, particularly when you have the climate to easily grow the first four items and a handy goat or sheep for the fifth.*
The existence of vegetarian mince makes up for the lack of livestock, and if you’ve got the cooking skills for, say, a standard lasagne, what could possibly stand in the way of a successful moussaka recipe….?
*more difficult in the UK, which is probably why it’s an imported recipe. The original British version of turnips, lard, nettles, Worcestershire sauce and roadkill never really caught on, more’s the pity.
Minor cooking disaster below the cut
– Bag of walnuts
– Lemon Juice
Either grate the walnuts, or alternatively wrap them in some paper towel and smack the hell out of them with a rolling pin (depending on how stressful your day has been).
Mix with enough lemon juice to moisten.
Add a dash of salt.
Refridgerate, and use in recipes as you would normal parmesan.
In the summer, the Cockneys used to travel from the East End of London to Kent, “the Garden of England”, to pick hops for the brewing industry. This was their summer holiday, in the days before disposable income and cheap flights. My father recalled serving them beer out of a trough, mug after mug after mug in quick succession. He grew up in rural Kent, surrounded by fields and allotments. People grew, picked, pickled, bottled, stored, and could only have been spurred on in this by World War 2 and the food rationing that followed, lasting years after the War itself had ended. When my paternal grandmother died, a comfortably well-off upper working-class woman at that point, with a well-maintained terraced house and a smart new car, the walk-in larder of the house was full of tins, most of them out-of-date. Even with the post-war plenty she kept a surplus safely on-hand, until it became beyond her ability to manage the stored supplies.
I have bits and pieces of her kitchen still, inherited after she died. I was going to university, having not lived independently before, and so it seemed a shame to get rid of the spare plates and pans, when I could get good use out of them. Twenty years later some of them have survived; two good metal saucepans, apparently indestructible despite my slow learning-curve as a cook. Some items of cutlery. Some plates and bowls with a sailing yacht motif (my grandfather was in the Navy and loved to sail). And a small white china dish, which my parents suggested I take as it “would be good to cook one-person dishes in”.
Two bleedin’ decades I have lugged this bloody dish around the country, and I finally cooked something today for which it was perfect, because I have limited fridge/freezer space so didn’t want to cook more than I could eat tonight, and as I wasn’t sure I could get the dish right (aubergines!!), I didn’t want to cook excess food that I might just end up filing directly into the bin.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Melanzane Alla Parmigiana, for One
I’ve enjoyed them in a few dishes cooked by other people, but whenever I try and cook them myself, the results are less than pleasing. But let no-one say I’m afraid of a challenge! As such, I will over the next few days be trying out not one, but three, THREE, aubergine dishes. If after that I still can’t get the upper hand on this vegetable, I will admit defeat, bow out gracefully, and go back to courgettes.
So not only has the vegetable gauntlet been thrown down, but I intend to complicate matters by giving up milk and cheese for the duration. In the past when I’ve needed to lose some weight, veganising my diet for a while has worked quite well. And, well, there’s currently more of the Anxiouscook than there really should be, so cutting out these high-calorie items can’t hurt. A scratch round t’Internets suggests that a good substitute for parmesan (an ingredient in two of the three recipes in question), is grated walnut with salt and a touch of lemon, so I’ll be giving that a go as well.
What could possibly go wrong….? 😉
First up, will be melanzane alla parmigiana. Wish me luck….