Friday, 19 December 2014

A Christmas Tale

It was a competition in the Irish Times. Send in a photo of your favourite Christmas bauble and tell the story behind it. It implied a much loved, battered old family heirloom. Something passed down through generations perhaps. I had been thinking about my tree decorations. A mixture of old and new. The old purchased when the kids were small and we lived in England. Mostly bought in Wilko. Mostly rubbish and now mostly gone. A few pieces left. Every year I take them out and think to myself they need to be dumped. But something stops me.

They were bought when we had no money. We didn't own a house. We lived off one salary and we had two small children. The star is a tinselly, garish gold with a bit of blue through it. It's lopsided when it's not at the top of the tree. The tradition was that my daughter put it on as she was the youngest. She was usually lifted up by her daddy to perform this ceremonial role.

This year my son was here and he laughed when he saw me decorating, reached into the box and triumphantly put the star on the tree saying, "I'm the youngest in the house now." Then he took out the little hand knitted Santa stocking he had made in playschool as a three year old in Lancaster and asked me to always keep it.

The memory of his time in playschool came flooding back. His first day when he cried and kicked and screamed. I was distraught. I ran back to the house and rang his dad in work and burst into tears. He told me not to be daft and go back and look in the window.  I walked back dreading what I might find, bracing myself to go in and rescue him. When I eventually managed to climb up to get a good view he was standing at the top of a slide posing like Batman.

Later when I collected him, he proudly presented me with a little orange Santa stocking that by now had a mushy, empty Smarty container in it. The evidence around his mouth.

This year, as every year I opened the old shoe box and lifted out the little stocking.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

All My Favourite Foods

Summer fruit pavlova
This is a post I've been planning on putting together for a while now but never got around to it, mainly because my photo filing is a disaster and trying to find a particular photo is impossible.

So finally here it is. My favourite food photos. And incidentally nothing was sent back by the non-paying customers.

Rick Stein's frutti di mare and linguine

Minestrone soup

Hake with fennel butter, green beans, fennel and fried potatoes

Squid ink pasta with squid, prawns and samphire

Blackcurrant buns


Pork loin with apricot stuffing

White chocolate and Coole Swan cheesecake

Lamb cutlets and kale

French apple tart

Slow cooked Zwartbles lamb with Catillac pear, apple and squash

Lentil dahl

Pear in red wine with star anise, thyme, chilli and honey

Slow cooked pork shoulder

Chocolate cake

Coq au vin, cheesy potatoes, baked spinach

Apple snow 

Beef Malay with pineapple salsa

Another cheesecake (I like cheesecake)

Disclaimer: I never do disclaimers but.

All these photos are my own. Most have not been watermarked within an inch of their lives so please do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Balsamic Pickled Onions

Have to confess I have never pickled onions before but when a Twitter pal, Sian offered to send me a recipe, I decided to have a go. She had got the recipe via Twitter as well but couldn't remember from whom.

I used a mixture of banana shallots, small round shallots and small red onions but pearl onions would be perfect as well. It's adds a bit of interest to have different shapes, sizes and colours particularly if you want to give a jar as a Christmas present.

The recipe was for a 1kg of onions so as I had just over 600g I reduced it proportionately.

600g onions
200g salt

Skin the onions and put in a bowl. Use table salt and pour it over the onions. Leave overnight. This removes moisture from the onions.

Next day rinse the onions and drain them.

To make the pickle
500ml Balsamic vinegar
180g sugar
1 red chilli chopped
1 teasp black peppercorns
1 teasp allspice berries
3 bay leaves

Mix the pickle ingredients and bring to the boil and reduce by approximately half.

Put the onions into clean, sterilised jars and pour the pickle over. Allow to cool. Put lids on and leave for a few weeks. If you make them now they should be ready to enjoy with a good Cheddar for Christmas.