Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tatties wi' their hats on

Ok. Another of my own recipes. Actually it's one my uncle used to do. He passed away about 12 years ago, but I went to visit my Auntie last weekend and she made this dish. Tatties wi' their hats on has to be pronounced in a Yorkshire accent. Next time you cook a roast dinner make these brilliant potatoes, they're genius! You roast them in the oven in a tray filled part way up with vegetable stock and sliced onions. The tops have a coating of bought, dry sage and onion stuffing straight out of the packet. If you are doing roast pork or chicken pop the meat in and nestle the potatoes around it. It may all sound slightly naff, but it is one of the bast ways to do tatties! I goes particularly well with a roast shoulder of pork (with crackling, of course) and apple sauce.

You will need:
Medium-sized potatoes, peeled (I do 2 per person)
3 medium-sized onions, sliced
Vegetable stock
Sage and onion stuffing
Salt and pepper

What to do...
  1. Preheat the oven to 108 degrees Celsius (or if having with meat, follow instructions for the meat you are roasting).
  2. Spread the sliced onions evenly on the bottom of a roasting tin
  3. Cut the base of each potato so that they can stand up longways (like large eggs!). Dunk the top of each potato in some stuffing and season well.
  4. Nestle these amongst the onions, or around the joint of meat. Sprinkle extra stuffing on top
  5. Pour enough stock so that it is around 1/2 inch deep.
  6. Roast for around 1 1/2 hours until cooked.
  7. If you're doing meat - make sure it's a cut that take at least 1 1/2 hours to cook, otherwise it'll dry out

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My recipe for lentil and bacon pasta stew

As promised more of my own recipes. This one is adapted from an Elizabeth David book on Italian cookery. It's brilliant if you are being frugal (as I am), you could even miss out the bacon altogether, though I would replace it with some smoked paprika. (Plus swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock, and it's vegetarian) Also, when VERY frugal, instead of using parsley leaves, I use finely-chopped parsley stalks. I freeze all my herbs in freezer bags and have always got loads of stalks to use to flavours soups or stocks. Don't let the huge amount of garlic scare you, it cooks down into a sweet mush.

The recipe makes enough for four as a main I reckon. It freezes well too.

You will need:
4 tbs good olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 or 3 good-quality smoked bacon rashers, cut into squares
1 stick of celery cut in 1cm lengths
the peeled cloves of half a bulb of garlic
6 oz. of brown or green lentils (or a mixture of both)
1 tin of tomatoes
3 tbs chopped mint leaves
4 tbs chopped parsley leaves
2 pints light chicken stock
2 oz. pasta (any kind)
salt and pepper

What to do:
  1. Pour boiling water over the lentils and allow to soak for 30-45 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil until soft, then add the bacon and fry for about five minutes.
  3. Add the celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Add the drained lentils and stir around so that the lentils soak up the oil.
  5. Pour in the tin of tomatoes, along with the mint and parsley. Season. Simmer until most of the tomato juices have been absorbed by the lentils.
  6. Add the stock and bring to a good simmer. Allow to cook for about an hour, perhaps slightly longer.
  7. When the lentils are served add the pasta and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pasta is ready. Check the seasoning.
  8. Eat!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Homemade marmalade is absolutely gorgeous! Greg and I had some on toast when we got in from work last night. It's super orangey and not too bitter. It definitely better than any bought stuff and this is my first attempt. I'm going to make loads more jams and shit!

#24 Orange Marmalade: 9/10. Don't want to give it full marks as I may be able to improve on it next year...

Greg says:
I agree, 9/10 for the marmalade, it's SO good, the kind that a little old lady with a hair bun would give you if you knocked on her door to ask for directions in the countryside. It actually tastes like it has something to do with fruit which most marms/jams seldom do. Yum please.

Jenny says:
Yep, 9/10, fantastic marmalade. Tangy, chunky and sticky - bring me more toast at once!

Nic says:
"loving the marmalade neil! very impressed- good use of rind, deliciously fruity but not overly sweet. works well on old school toast and bagels. i'm assigning a score of 9/10. it's on a par with my all time fave -the vintage Oxford one. more please! can i put in a request for lemon curd and/or 'buttery's no-butter peanut butter' please!"

Ange says:
"Sometimes you don't need foie gras or quail's eggs to satisfy your well-educated tastebuds, on occassion only something homely and comforting will do. Take marmalade for example, you don't need fancy melba toast or an organic rye bagel to enjoy its zesty goodness. I believe the only true way to enjoy marmalade is on cheap, thick sliced white bread, toasted a bit more than usual, the merest sheen of butter (not marge mind) and then a thick unctuous layer of boiled sugar and citrus!I looked forward to last weekend knowing that such a treat was within my grasp. Neil's Marmalade (TM) made a satisfying pop when the lid was loosened and expelled a cool draught of lively orange. First taste was exquisitely sweet, dying down to a sharp, but exhilarating tang. A defining marmalade moment. Pat yourself on the back young Neil.I second the motion for lemon curd to be next though!"

Monday, January 14, 2008

#24 Orange Marmalade

Since I've no money and everyone was out having fun, it was the perfect time to make (#24) Orange Marmalade. In a weird and quite geeky way I actually quite enjoyed myself! Boil 3 pounds of Seville Oranges in 6 pints of water for about 1 1/2 hours, scoop out the innards and put in a muslin. Add muslin to pot of water, shred the peel, add shit load (6 pounds) of sugar. Boil. Piece of piss. The tricky bit was getting it to set.
FYI: pectin sets at 105 degrees Celsius after boiling for 10 minutes. Viciously boiling a pot of molten sugar for that long is quite scary and it took ages for me to pluck up the courage! Eventually I did and it passed the 'wrinkle test'. The kitchen and I ended up one massive sticky mess! Then it was the simple procedure of funneling everything in with my new jam funnel. I haven't had a chance to taste it yet, except for the molten splashes that landed on me; and it seems very nice, strong and bitter. I am labelling them up and distributing them about.

FYI: I got all the jam-making stuff and posh jars from internet/ebay shop Country Cook Shop ( which is situated in The Travelling Hen, Herefordshire; and very good they are too! Plus the fancy Gingham pot lids were from Greg as a Christmas pressie. I can't believe he feeds my geekiness by buying me these things! Anyone else would be ina permanent state of embarassment...

I think I may start a new career in conserve production...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I may be poor but hopefully there will still be Grigsons to speak of. Today, my order of preserve-making goodies came via the Internet. I just need to get hold of some cheesecloth and I can make some marmalade. I don't have a proper posh pan or a thermometer but hopefully all will be well. As I am poor I will have to be frugal, so I shall hopefully be making more jams etc. soon. Also, I got an ice cream maker for Christmas, so I can do some exciting (and cheap) experiments with that. Anyone fancy a water sorbet!? Even if I don't do stuff from the book I shall put on my own recipes; I haven't done that for a while and I should because I've made some good ones off the hoof and forgotten what I did. Anyway, I'm going to stop blabbering now. Laters!

#23 French Dressing

Now I know what you're going to say; French Dressing isn't very English. Back when English Food was written, we had one type of dressing and it was this recipe. (My sister used the exact same one herself, though not from Grigson.) Now, of course we have millions, so they are definitely part of the English way of eating. And if you don't agree: tough tits it's in the book and I have to make at some point anyway.

The reason that I've made it in the middle of January is because I need to eat something fresh with actual vitamins. Christmas was too indulgent. I may have gout. So it's salads for me. I got a brilliant panini sandwich press thing for Christmas and have been having healthy sarnies and salads. Ta Ma!
Crush a clove of garlic into a bowl or a clean jar and add a quarter teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of French mustard, a tablespoon of wine vinegar, five tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and ground pepper. Give it a good mix or shake and you are done. I know it looks like someone's vommed in a jar, but it's very nice reallly. No, really!

#23 French Dressing 7/10. It's the one we all know and love, but there's more exciting ones out there.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Christmas Dinner, numbers 21, 22

I planned to do alot more than I actually did for the Christmas dinner. It did all go down a treat though. However, only two Grigsons were done. Most of the recipes for the meal were taken from the brilliant Leiths Vegetarian Bible that I bought Greg a couple of years back; I would recommend everyone to buy it whether a vegetarian or not. This was the menu:

Starter: Mushroom pate

Main: Nut roast, (#21) Buttered Parsnips, Brussels Sprouts, Roast Potatoes, Minty Peas, Mustard Gravy

Pud: (#22) Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary

'Parsnips need butter' says the Grigson. And so right she is. Buttered parsnips is a way to make roast parsnips without roasting them it seems. Boil your parsnips until nearly cooked, drain, and then saute them slowly in butter. They go all nice and golden and chewy. Yumbo! Add some parsley and salt and pepper and you're done.

The Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary were a strange affair; dissolve 8 ounces of sugar in 8 fluid ounces of dry white wine and lemon juice, add a pint of cream and simmer until it thickens. Now add either a stem of fresh or a teaspoon of dried rosemary (I used dried as they'd run out of fresh at the shop) and 5 1/2 ounces of grated dark chocolate. Simmer for 20 minutes until nice and thick. Pass through a sieve and pour into ramekins to set. All pretty easy. sprinkle with some slivered almonds. The Grigson did warn that it was a very rich dessert, and she was not wrong! Greg and I managed to eat half of one each!

#21: Buttered Parsnips.7.5/10 - A great way to eat parsnips, but are they better the roast!? I don't think so!

#22: Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary Cream. 4.5/10. The combination of rosemary-infused chocolate works very well indeed. But the vast amounts of wine and sugar made far too rich even for me!

Happy New Year!

Well 2008 is here. I need to fill you in on Grigson-related activities over the festive period. There actually wasn't that much Grigson action to be honest. The Christmas Cake has gone down well with who tasted it (except for those that don't like Christmas Cake!). I did like the Marzipan as it was less sweet than the shop-bought kind. I liked the royal icing too, but I used (*sharp intake of breath*) Jif lemon! This was because I'd forgot to buy it and didn't have time to go to the shop. The icing's consistency was nice, but the slightly fake lemon flavour was noticeable. I still have a massive wedge of cake to eat, so if someone sends me their address I'll send a slice! My Mum like it too much, though, and it has now become my job to make the Christmas Cake every year.

#15 Christmas Cake, #18 Marzipan, #19 Royal Icing: 9/10. Certainly better than any shop-bought cake. I am knocking marks of for the icing (albeit my own fault)

I have been to Unicorn in Chorlton to buy my Seville oranges so I can make some lovely Oxford Marmalade. I have also ordered jam-making equipment from th'internet. It will be my first forray into the art of preserve-making.

However, dear-reader, do not expect too many Grigson's over the coming months. There are two reasons for this:
  1. I have put on more than a stone since October with all the rich food and lack of trips to the gym.
  2. I foolishly bought a new kitchen for my house. I paid for it using my debit card because I'd forgotten my credit card. What I didn't know is that these credit cards charge you 5% of the value to transfer it. What I also didn't know is that my card had been cancelled as I'd not used it since 2003! This leaves me with about £30 a week until April (my PhD pays me quarterly).

All Grigsons must be now a, cheap, and b, low-calorie. I don't know how successful I will be at this. I have managed one, and will tell you all about it after I fill you in on the couple I did over Christmas for mine and Greg's veggie Christmas dinner.