Tag Archives: almost miscellaneous

I’m back – with reservations….

What a funny old year. I know, I know, it’s been forever since I posted, but there’s a reason. Well, there are many – being inundated with work, having all sorts of things to keep up with on behalf of clients, etc, etc. So much, so no excuse really. But I do have a better excuse: this is a food blog, and last year I developed something that stopped me eating what I wanted. LPR: laryngeal pharyngeal reflux*. Lovely.

It started, I think, with a bug. That was not helped by a dodgy hog roast and/or a half of dirty beer. I know, I know again: at a festival or whatever, drink beer in bottles or cans. Yeah, right.

I was not well.

To avoid increasing my problems I had to trim my diet right down. Plain rice was fine, mashed potato was just about OK as long as there was no milk (I’m lactose intolerant anyway) or excessive fat. The same applied to cold meat, and I generally ate cold chicken; I knew beef would be too fatty and ham, good ham, just needed too much delicious fat trimming off. All fried food was out, and boy did I get fed up with scrambled egg. In fact, if I never scramble another egg I’ll be happy.

I drank loads: water. Coffee was out. Alcohol was unthinkable. Some herb teas were OK though – camomile, fennel. Pepperminty things were out.

Anything acidic was out. Anything with oomph – lots of onion, garlic, chilli – was out. Fruit? Even my beloved apples were out. I’d got lots of purée in the freezer, the result of the usual glut,

but no. Bananas? One a day. Maybe. Depending. What kept me semi-sane, hilariously, were chewy sweets – wine gums, pastilles, that sort of thing – and chewing gum, but not mint varieties. This does not an exciting food blog make. Oh, and eating out was a no-no. Or a complete nightmare.

Come October and I was down in London, still being very careful (such a waste). We strolled round the warehouses at Spa Terminus (nobody goes to Borough Market these days, ho ho); I tested nothing. We went out for dinner. I had the plainest dishes on the menu, and water. I wanted to buy something to eat on the journey back to Wales, and in the whole of Euston could not find anything my stomach could tolerate other than a tube of Rowntree’s Pastilles. Boring, boring, boring.

LPR does, however, eventually go (I’m having a mini flare up at the moment, again prompted by a bug that’s been doing the rounds, but very mini and I’m damned if I’m taking the tablets again). In the meanwhile a few things did save my sanity, and one was a miso sauce from a fabulous reader’s recipe I found in the Guardian. I’ve still got the cutting, so I can credit it correctly to Anna Thompson who ran a guest house in Kyoto with her husband. I adapted it for my needs and quantities, and this is my version. You need a small jar with a lid you can seal (don’t ask me why I’m putting so much stress on the seal; let me just say that cleaning ceilings is awkward at the best of times).

3 tsp miso paste
4 tsp olive oil
3 tsp rice wine
2 tsp clear honey
1 tsp shoyu
grated fresh ginger to taste

Put all the ingredients in a small jar with a decent lid (see above). Shake violently to combine; if it’s a bit thick, let it down with a very little water. Then use it as a dressing – for a salad, for crunchy oriental greens or, as frequently in my case, for plain rice.

The original also includes crushed garlic, but I couldn’t handle that raw. I can now. Yippee!

 

*LPR is a variety of acid reflux, sometimes called ‘silent reflux’, marked by constant coughing and throat clearing and hoarseness from damaged vocal chords, as well as the lovely feeling that you’ve got something stuck in your throat. It’s often the result of some infection, as with me. Happily it usually clears up with treatment, and usually doesn’t result in complications; unhappily, the treatment ‘requires larger doses of medication for weeks to months’ than normal acid reflux. And I didn’t get on with the drugs.

 

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Kitchen kit to fight for

I was making bread this morning when my Kenwood Chef started making ominous protesting sounds. It’s an old model, because my experience of the latest ones could best be described as profoundly negative (any further explanation would consist of much swearing, shouting and the hurling of ‘guarantees’ across the kitchen) but It’s been fine. Not as fine as my old old one – if you see what I mean – which was given to me when one of my neighbours died. That had been deeply loved, had a history and a hand-sewn cover but it also died eventually; my ‘new’ old one came from eBay. It was reconditioned, and it worked just fine.

Due to repeated hand injuries, I can no longer do all the kneading by hand when I make bread. So what to do, now that my Kenwood is doing banshee impressions? I’ve tried no-knead or short-knead breadmaking methods and I either don’t care for the end result or can’t manage my life with a stopwatch (8.30: knead the dough for 10-15 seconds … 9.00: knead the dough for 10-15 seconds…).  So I’ve settled for a tortoise approach – I’ll think about it when I have to. But in the meanwhile it made me think about what equipment I had that I couldn’t live without. Well, obviously I could, in extreme circumstances, but hey.

I’m baking at the moment, so I initially considered the things I use for my bread. I wouldn’t care to be without my bannetons – Carrefour, I love you – but if needs be, I can improvise with a bowl and a linen tea towel. Then there are the two ancient dough scrapers, which are fantastically useful. I suppose I could improvise an alternative? Yes, I know I could – I once used a credit card. It was never the same again, but that was probably just as well. What about a flour shaker? Obviously I could just chuck flour over the linen tea-towel in my banneton bowl, the worktop, the floor, myself and Next Door’s Cat who thinks he lives here; that would work.

aghI was on a roll (otherwise known as waiting for the oven to heat up), and opened the stuff drawers. I remember an episode of Gavin and Stacey, in which everyone was searching for a take-away menu and it was suggested that it might be in ‘the messy drawer’. All my drawers are like that. Time to sort them out, perhaps.

There are three of them, vaguely organised by diminishing frequency of use. So drawer one consists of cutlery and things like scissors and tin openers and corkscrews and a digital timer; drawer two has bulkier stuff like a plastic funnel (so attractive), pizza cutters (plural? How did that happen?), graters, hand whisks and rolling pins, and drawer three is the – well, the one-offs. And then there are the old pickle jars (three of those too) which hold the wooden spoon collection and the collection of – er, more stuff. Spatulas, etc. (A new swear word, I think. Oh, spatulas!)

I used to be, you see, an equipment slut. Used to be?

agh 2I blame Divertimenti (you’ve got to blame someone). They used to be on the Fulham Road, and I didn’t live that far away, plus I was at the stage of being in my first place and just having to add to my kitchen. And they opened on Sundays, or am I imagining that? Anyway, I would spend far too much time wandering around, picking up expensive pans, putting them down again, fondling obscure pieces of kit and buying some of them.

It’s the resulting one-offs that I could easily live without – crème brulée iron, anyone?  – though I have to say that an oyster knife is just perfect for getting solid lumps of dried mud out of the tread on your walking boots. How my life has changed.

spoonsAt some points I’ve improvised alternatives for all sorts of things. An wine bottle can sub as a rolling pin, and I have opened a tin by stabbing it repeatedly with a screwdriver (er, not recommended at all, plus it takes ages). I’ve whisked with a fork, which worked though it did take a couple of days to regain the use of my shoulder. Much as I love my ancient wooden spoons, and despite the extent to which I am baffled that some people manage without any, I could always use a stick.

(What sort of future am I envisaging here, I wonder? I’ve been reading something about partisans behind German lines in Eastern Europe which may account for this whole speculation, but have no intention of eating very old, very dead horse. Or people, but we won’t go there.)

It was only when the bread was cooked that I realised the piece of kitchen equipment that I absolutely cannot do without, or rather the pieces. I could throw everything out tomorrow, but leave me my knives. And a steel. They’re nothing flash, just a selection of Kitchen Devils and a rather old Prestige bread knife with a naff red handle dating back to the late 1980s (guess who had a red and white kitchen? Must have looked like a pizzeria). But I keep them scarily sharp and love them dearly. I’ve had ‘posh’ knives, and I’ve got rid of them, finding them more trouble than they were worth (and pigs to sharpen, too). So take my dariole moulds if you must, but leave me my four-inch vegetable knife.

And a corkscrew. Natch.