Tales from the Table #15

Just been out on my bike and it is cold and crisp, I’m wrapping my hands round my cup of coffee to warm up. My fingers throbbing.

I’ve come back from the butchers with an overwhelming, I love our butchers kind of feeling. I’d picked my recipe and new what I was going to go get to find I’ve come away with something completely different in terms of a cut. I’d asked for a shoulder steak, to find I was being given steaks of pork (obviously taken from the shoulder). I was bold though and exclaimed that I was looking for something with the bone in. To find I was then talking to man brandishing a cleaver as long as his arm. He promptly brought forward this huge hunk of a shoulder along with an education session on the bone, we moved onto other cuts and agreed on a loin of pork with the bone left in. I asked about fat and we talked about the top end of the loin. This was all done with the love and care of a man who wanted to help his customer and knew his trade. I came away very happy and now I’m thinking will this cook in the same way.

The worst time of year for a cookbook hoarder…..the Christmas releases are out in full force. The best roundup that I have come across is from eat your books website. How they manage to get all these books into one review is amazing…think tardis for cookbook reviews.

French cooking this week was really stressful, a mix of turning up harassed and head fried (post work, mad rush to have tea and get to the school). A caramel disaster for creme caramel and a pastry so short it was more like builders sand for a tarte au chocolate. On my third attempt at re constitution of the sugar crystals I managed to get something that could be poured into a ramekin. And a drop of water whilst the teacher wasn’t looking remedied the sand. My friend and I were last out as the the final school bell went, just in time to pick up my son who was having his Halloween disco.

Classes have been broken into 5 week chunks this term, so that’s it for the French cooking. All in all it’s been good, a couple of learning’s and some things I’ve never cooked before. Biggest disaster was my roux for the goats cheese soufflé. Cream goes in at the end, otherwise you get a disgusting ball of fatty goo.

Week 1, Coq au Vin demo…a little cheated
Week 2, Boeuf Bourguignon, Dauphinoise Potatoes
Week 3, Onion Soup, Goat Cheese Soufflé
Week 4, Fish Casserole, and definitely something return to. Sole Meuniere…no point as you need to eat immediately
Week 5, tarte au chocolate and crème caramel

Came across Never Panic Buy a House this week where my favourite quote of the week sticks the house owns you not the other way round….never more true when the shower blew mid way through washing out the black die my son used for his Halloween hair. It was messy.

Hope everyone had a good week and Halloween went well. It’s bonfire night here in the uk and we are well and truly heading into slow cook and comfort food eating territory. My goal has been set and I’ve to start decorating the front room…so my cooking exploits are likely to be curtailed!

Weekend Coffeeshare

The weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli, nice to see you,  I’m a wannabe cook, semi part time blogger!  Please subscribe at the top right.  

Fish Casserole – Bouillabaisse

 

Made an amazing fish casserole (bouillabaisse) during this week’s council run French cooking evening class that was so simple and so tasty that I really wanted to share it with you.


Credit: The Edinburgh Cook Recipe file
Prep: A lidded casserole dish, for the hob, and a frying pan if heading down the skin fillet route.

Ingredients

The Base Sauce

  • 3 Garlic cloves, finely chopped/crushed
  • 1 Small red chilli seeds removed, and finely diced
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 200g Mirepoix (which is roughly a Medium sized carrot, peeled finely diced Small onion, peeled finely diced Stick of celery finely diced)
  • 75ml white wine (preferably dry)
  • 400g tin good quality chopped tomatoes
  • Orange Peel (using a potatoe peeler take a slice of orange skin without taking the pith, bitter white)
  • Olive oil, a generous glug
  • 25g knob of butter
  • 1 bouquet garni sachet
  • 200ml fish stock or good quality veg stock

The Fish Part – which I suggest you tailor to your taste/guests

Fish you cook in the sauce

  • 2 white fish fillets (cod, hake or coley)
  • 175-200g raw prawns

Fish you cook in a frying pan and add to the dish on serving (optional…maybe add another fillet above if you don’t do this part)

  • 2 small Sea bream or sea bass fillets


Directions

  1. Do the veg prep first as per the ingredients
  2. Add the garlic and lightly stir through and then add the mirepoix and chilli. Stir through some of the parsley. Gently fry for 4-5 minutes, the idea here is to soften the veg without browning. Add the orange peel
  3. Pour the white wine and burn off the alcohol by reducing it by a third
  4. Add the chopped tomato and bouquet garni, simmering for 10 mins.
  5. Now the stock and reduce to a third. (I used one of those stock pot’s more like a jelly and then added some boiling water)
  6. Gently add the white fish fillet and then cover the pot for 5 minutes
  7. Add the prawns and cook briefly, couple of mins as they start to turn pink, take away from the heat
  8. Remove the bouquet garni and orange peel, taste and add a little salt/pepper if needed
  9. If you are going down the fried fish addition route, fry the fillets in butter, skin side down to get crispy first and then turn over to finish the flesh, this will be a couple of minutes depending on how long you cooked the skin side.
  10. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Serve in bowl with some nice bread of your choosing


Tales from the Table #14

Coffee today is served with a huge slab of carrot cake and a dark roast, it’s more a memory from last week as I scan my photo’s.

This time last week we were packing up the van and leaving a week behind of full on fresh air and bike trails through ancient forests.  This week though tails of waking up in the dark and barely seeing the day as I returned to work.

I did comeback enthused and determined to beat the office blues, and a minor agenda around some weight loss……the bullet journal as my guide, a habit tracker in tow.  Despite the strong winds I managed three runs pre work in the dark.  Email defeated me big time!

Food wise my highlight has to be the fish casserole I made at my french cookery class.  Not authentic as there was no fish carcass in sight….two hours in an evening is just not long enough.  Despite that though very tasty and a keeper.

And although I’m not longer buying cookbooks (honest!) I found the Borough Market Cookbook, Recipes and stories from a year at the market at a steal from Amazon for £7, at present it’s at £8.99.  Written by Ed Kyber who has a great inspiration food blog Rocket and Squash.  As I’m no longer buying cook books I gave it to my wife for my Christmas stocking, so potentially I’ve started my Christmas shopping!

I’ve been dabbling, with my own self hosted site, trying to tweak here, nip and tuck there.  My greatest breakthrough getting the Instagram feed up within seconds.  My undoing to find that as I marked the old house private my pictures are no longer visible on the archive……I’ve downloaded the history (call it the van) and I now feel a bit of unpacking and re-org required for the new house.

Music wise my top tip new release is the soundtrack from Bohemian Rhapsody, I’m more of an Eighties Queen fan so not every song floats my boat….the 20th century fox fanfare really put a smile on my face, that and Trent’s weekly smile returning.

Bohemian Rhapsody (The Original Soundtrack)

So back to the coffee, a day of DIY awaits, and I’ve forgotten to soak the beans overnight that I had planned to slow cook during that time spent hammering and bashing, so I need to find something else.   I do have a sourdough slowly proving in the fridge.

Thanks for joining me, I hope you have a great weekend.

The weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli, nice to see you,  I’m a wannabe cook, semi part time blogger and this is my new home with my own url as well!  Please subscribe at the top right.  

Ritual – it’s Monday

Muesli and a Coffee - The Ritual

Monday morning, first day back after a week of fresh air and zero email contact….(ok I peeped a couple of times, but didn’t respond!).  I’ve vowed that I need to come back and change some of my rituals/habits that I have got myself into.  Almost like bringing the new year resolutions forward a couple of months.

The changes start today, the alarm went off at 6am….and rather than the usual cup of a tea in bed to ease myself into the week I weighed myself.  Not a good idea post-holiday, it wasn’t pretty, however it gave the jolt that I needed to do something.  I got my running gear on and stepped out into the dark.  Preparing myself for a cold chill it wasn’t too bad, the sky was a picture.  Not a cloud in site and the stars out in full force…and a clear Orion’s belt out in full force…..amazing I wouldn’t have seen that if I’d stayed in bed.

I’ve said before and no doubt will say again, I hate running and I don’t seem to get faster….although I do seem to be able to run further without stopping.   What it does do though is give me a sharper more positive mind…it’s just hard to remember that when the alarm goes off!

The plan this week is to avoid being a slave to email.  Whilst away I set out my bullet journal, created a few habit trackers and arranged this week into a diary format that allows me to set out my stall rather than allowing myself to be dragged with the flow.  My start of workday ritual is usually to sit down with my cup of coffee and open outlook, greeted with the usual message of running out of space and slowly like a frog being boiled in water I’m back into the old habit…..not this week.  This week I’m going to open the journal with my cup of coffee…..I’ll let you know how I get on!

Aviemore Tips and the Coffeeshare

Speyside Way SignCoffee and cake has been a big theme of the week, I’m so glad you can join me!  I’ve also moved location…got myself a full on URL!

The Coffee Choices:
Nethy House at Nethy Bridge: Fruit Scone, a dark carrot cake (which I mistook for chocolate) or pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
The Druie Café an old school house in Rothiemurcus:  Serves up all manner of tray bakes, fruit scones, hot chocolate with marshmallows or a Blueberry and Lemon drizzle cake.

Let’s just say as a family we may have sampled all these, across a couple of repeat visits.

We managed lunch at one of Aviemore’s leading institutions, The Mountain Café one day and although probably our favourite place to eat, it’s service this time was terrible, a buzzer system that’s been introduced adds nothing to the fact that the staff don’t seem to care anymore that people are tired and hungry…A 40 minute wait turned into 1hr 10, to find that lots of tables were empty when we were finally buzzed. The Glenmore forest café  further down the road, twice as much foot fall turned round a baked potato, venison burger, panini and scampi in 10-15 mins with a hustle that was just amazing and much needed after the 40k cycle….the staff just seemed to care.

If you need something to take home for the sweet toothed folk in your life then I can really recommend the Kilted Fudge Company and whilst your passing the Cairngorm Brewery. within a couple minutes walking distance of each other.

We’ve been really lucky with the weather, managing to make use of the vast array of cycle paths and a Munro to bag.

Day 1
Aviemore to Boat of Garten, The Osprey Centre, Nethy Bridge (see coffee shop above). Part of the Speyside Way. Just brilliant and exhilarating from the get go.

Day 2
Sgòr Gaoith…the weather forecast intimated the perfect autumn hill day and I’d have been annoyed not to take it. Got the house up for an early start and first in the car park for a 9.30 start. Like the book says the perfect short (4hr!) ramble in the Scottish mountains.

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Great day walking for October #freshair #munro #hillwalking

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Day 3
A rest day, a mooch around town….the poor lunch experience albeit we were early by arriving at 11:40

Day 4
Aviemore Orbital, onto Rothiemurchus, Loch Eileen, Loch Morlich and back

Day 5 – my favourite, a jumble of a few routes
Day 1 and then some….Nethy Bridge, through the Abernethy Forest, around Tore Hill, onto the B970 and then over the Slugan Pass towards Loch Morlich and the Glenmore Forest Centre, back along the old logging route. An eagle, a heron and forests that time forgot.

Day 6 – the rain came
And still we went out, just a little fresh air we said, a slice of cake later and we did another lap of Rothiemurchus. We couldn’t help ourselves. The last day here, the air, the colours just food for the soul.

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Fuel before a big circuit. #coffee

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The summary…..a great self catering family holiday with plenty of exercise, cake and coffee! The power of cycling giving on trails that take away the worry, time to reflect and a sense of daily achievement for all. I think I’m ready for the tail end of the year!

Thanks for joining me at the weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli, nice to see you,  I’m a wannabe cook, semi part time blogger and this is my new home with my own url as well!, if you’ve been for coffee before you may have to click on follow again…..I’m working on a few self hosting issues!

Cairngorm Gold the Coffee Share

Cairngorm Gold

Got to that time of the day where it’s a bit late for coffee, you’re welcome to one, although we have a Cairngorm Gold on offer from the local brewery. Stumbled across it yesterday as we walked to the grocery store for milk. We are away for the week a few hours north of Edinburgh and always like to taste something locally made.

The weather has been terrible in the UK the past few days so although the sky was grey when we woke, it was a welcome relief to see it wasn’t raining, a coffee and a pancake later, the bikes loaded off the van and pumped up we were good to hit the Speyside way.

Cycling the route from Aviemore to Boat of Garten is one of those dream cycle rides, the landscape, the air, the colours just make you feel alive. Both boys smiles on their faces as the first few minutes were down hill with twists and turns, bridges, tunnels and loops. We were out in the open in a matter of minutes helped by staying at one of the last houses in the village.

Cycle rides mark the passage of time, where previously we’d had to coax the boys along, they are now setting the pace and before we knew it we were at Boat of Garten looking to extend our route and perhaps find lunch. The next section, to Nethy Bridge very similar in terrain once your out of Boat of Garten. Head towards the RSPB Osprey centre but then keep to the Speyside way, red route.

Lunch at the Nethy House café, where the boys were rewarded with Cairngorm hotdogs kilted in bacon….I was nearly envious with my haggis, sausage and cranberry meatloaf salad plater.

The route back, the same way we came this time rewarded with the sun in our faces.

Back to the beer…..just what I needed as I type away, a product of Scotland, a golden coloured light bodied continental style ale.

Thanks for joining me at the weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli, nice to see you if this is the first time you’ve read through, I’m a wannabe cook, semi part time blogger. And if you read the post before the last post iPad Troubles….the iPad was replaced, finally mr Apple agreed it was a hard ware issue.…I’m happy and what a difference.

September18 – Weekend Coffee Share

IMG_5614Welcome to September, probably my favourite month food wise. Mentally there is transition to comfort foods, root veg, squash and plums all start to become abundant as we run into apple season. The plants that have taken their time to grow and produce finally letting go and saying I’m ready.

I love all these ingredients that lend themselves to slow cooking. With a big old house to slowly renovate a slow one pot dish allows you to get on with the list that the boss has at the same time as ensuring a good wholesome meal hits the table.

Of late though people have been muscling in on my cooking slots, the boys actually agreeing to make a meal, or the boss cottoning on to the fact I might be stalling by cooking.

If we were having coffee, we’d agree that this was only being said in jest. We’d talk about how we’ve been in the house three years now, how the kitchen, the electrics and the bathroom were all big jobs. However now it’s time to push on with the other things.

We have furniture that we’ve carried from 4 moves, wire boxes and components that I’ve not touched in a good 15 years when I dabbled with self-build PCs. The speakers from my teenage hi-fi that are just too hard to let go. The idea that you could Bluetooth your phone to a speaker and connect to a myriad of tunes a twinkle in someone’s eye compared to a black and red wire trailing around a bedroom hidden behind things so you didn’t know. The sounds of my teenage youth not the same now and the speakers of today although crisp, bright and compact never seem to live up to the sounds of yester year.

This weekend really is time to have a good sort out, I’m taping into the energy of the 1st day of the month falling on a Saturday and just a general feeling of it’s time to get organised and control some of things that I can unlike at work which is another tale.

Obviously there will be time to enjoy a few cups of coffee. I’ll be serving a few slices of freshly baked Brioche that’s in the fridge just now slowly proving.

Thanks for joining me at the weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli, nice to see you if this is the first time you’ve read through, I’m a wannabe cook, semi part time blogger. And if you read last weeks post….the iPad still isn’t fixed… though this time I’ve made an appointment with the Apple doctor for this week, rather than arriving on spec.

iPad Screen Problems – the weekend coffee share

img_5059Saturday and I’m first up, The sun breaking through the curtains in the front room. There is a silence about the place, the roads free from the daily grind of commuters. There’s a feeling that summer is erasing its way into winter with the chill in the air. The Sun is low for 6.40, it’s just gone past the stage of a sun rise. The coffee isn’t on yet. I want the peace to continue for a few more minutes. To revel in the luxury of thinking Space where I can put my mind at ease. No one asking questions, or a fight over breakfast…. just quiet.

It doesn’t last long….welcome and thanks for joining me for the weekend coffee share. The sun has come up and it’s going to a be a bright day, nothing on the agenda, perhaps a trip into town a little long overdue clothes shopping for work, a trip to the butchers for inspiration and the Apple store.

The trick here will be to get in and out before the tourists get out and about. The last full on weekend of the Fringe and the Festival. It’s great for the city but for the locals it adds on another dimension of chaos to the ebb and flow of getting about the jobs and the messages.

I’ve got a weird thing going on with my iPad and pencil where one particular part of the screen stops working along with issues with the same letters when I type. The standard response from the chatbot was to reinstall and rebuild…but the scientist in me knows it’s a hardware fault. I can’t get an appointment until 13.25….Tuesday online, it’s like going to the doctors, going to try my luck at just appearing at the store………

Stood at the bus stop, the warmth of the sun cuts through the chill in the air. There is no one here but me, so I’m able to stand here without embarrassment charging myself like a rechargeable battery. Its 8:30 and it dawns on me that it’s a bank holiday weekend and maybe that’s the reason for the quietness to the air……..

There’s a queue outside the Apple store with 2 mins to go until opening time, time to breathe and really take a good look at the Balmoral, the apple store doesn’t need another picture.

The doors open and there is a frenzy….. Tech support or Genius Bar, make your way up the stairs. A mad dash to make an appointment. Relief from a guy who came yesterday and couldn’t see anyone. He’s in the club. A text on my phone to let me know that I’ll be seen soon and to let someone know I’m here, it’s been 2 mins since I last spoke to the same guy.

……..Diagnostics and a reinstall later I’m sent on my way, but this time with the re-assurance that they will take me back in store with open arms. I shake the guys hand and re-assure him I will be back, he doesn’t know what to say. I smile and say thanks.

…..back home now and the tea is poured, I’ll keep you posted on the iPad saga….thanks for popping by.

 

Welcome to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Alli

Lentil and Aubergine Ratatouille

My head is fried, one of the boys is bashing out tunes on the piano, jumping from ditty to ditty. The other is battling against a shrinking storm with all manner of explosions on the xBox. I’ve been painting doors and skirtings for most the day and despite it being water based I think the smell has got to me. Add to that and I expect no sympathy on this point, day 2 of a possible hangover from the annual Whisky Fringe that takes place here in Edinburgh.

I’ve been given the Sunday tea slot and asked to take care of the Courgette and the Aubergine, whilst I wasn’t the looking the potatoes as well. I was thinking a slow cooked ragu/ratatouille to serve with Pasta and Basil from the plant slowly wilting in the corner and then the potatoes arrived so just decided to go for a one pot….which I think was a little too small in hindsight.

Lentil and Aubergine ratatouille

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple one pot dish that’s great for using up the veg box left overs when all you want to do is chill.

Credit: The Edinburgh Cook Recipe file

Prep: A hob and oven proof lidded casserole dish. Oven at 180°

Ingredients

  • 200g mixed lentils (100g puy, 100g Brown)
  • 1 Onion diced
  • 2 Cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 Courgette chopped to bite size pieces
  • 1 Aubergine, quartered length wise and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 500g potatoes chopped into bite sized pieces (These were newish, so I scrubbed and kept the skins on)
  • Tablespoon dry herbs of your choice
  • Heaped teaspoon of bouillon
  • Teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • Glug of olive oil

Directions

  1. In an oven proof dish, slowly soften the onion in the oil
  2. Add the garlic and stir through
  3. Add the Aubergine and turn over as they start to soak up the oil
  4. Add the courgette, stir through, the herbs and the salt
  5. The tomatoes, and then fill the can up with water and pour that in as well
  6. Add the potatoes and lentils and stir through (if you can….I couldn’t’)
  7. Use your judgement and add more water (only a drop) to cover the lentils
  8. Bring to simmer and then cover and place in the oven,
  9. Check at 30 mins and stir over, top up with water if needed (again only a drop)
  10. Check at the 1hr and the do the….should be cooked at this point, but repeat the last step, I like the extra 30 mins as I feel something magical happens to the aubergine as it softens, sweetens and adds to the pot of warming magic

Table #15 – Post Holiday Blues and the Coffee Share

Rain

Welcome to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Alli

Saturday and it’s raining. Definitely a welcome relief the garden so desperately needs it and the air needs to feel fresher.

The coffee is poured and a chicken is on the hob gently poaching in order to both create a stock along with chicken for tonight’s pie.

I was asked to take care of the potatoes from the veg box as part of my weekend cook.  My mind automatically jumped to a hot pot, sliced potatoes on the top more like a winter comfort food though.  Then when I looked at the box, they were nice new scrapers rather than fluffy so they will be scrubbed, slightly boiled and then roasted with rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.

I’ve had a roller coaster week mentally.  Straight back into work Monday after our return on the Sunday.  An expected shock to the system, but never the less draining mentally to get back into projects and the vernacular of the working world.  Swapping shorts and t-shirt for a shirt and tie!

Couldn’t help question myself over many things to the point of procrastination and even to the point of something so radical as deleting the whole blog to either pack it in completely or to rip it up and start again. To do so to admit failure and wouldn’t create any more time or stop me coming back.

Life has a habit of creeping in and taking over, reality kicks in and takes over the dreams that formed whilst camping in the French mountains.

So this morning with a little head-space I caught up on my feedly feeds and had a word with myself.  A trip to the butchers the paint supply shop for a primer, a 2nd coffee and the kitchen table…. I’m back…. again!