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Getting Back On The Horse

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I’m not one to make New Years Resolutions – after all, why make January even more miserable with failed promises to better yourself? – but I’d like to think that this year the least I can commit myself to is getting back in the kitchen and back to the blog. My cooking mojo recently has been somewhat lacking and the mere thought of venturing into the cold, miserably dated kitchen which we’re saving our pennies to renovate leaves me feeling less than inspired to be totally honest. But as it happens, I’m only human, and upon being asked by several friends who I’d never dreamed would find my blog remotely interesting “what’s happened to your blog?” over the last few months, my head found itself becoming rather large, and so here I am, getting back on that horse. I wouldn’t want to let my adoring public down, after all.

I couldn’t start a new year of cooking without falling back on my trusty old faithful, Nigella Lawson. She’s had a terrible year and I for one am backing her all the way. I find it abhorrent that the press have gone after her as savagely as they have, while Saatchi, the man who publicly grabbed, humiliated and subsequently tried to destroy her seems to have faded into the background without a flicker of interest from the press about the ‘intimate terrorism’ he subjected his wife to. It makes me feel really uncomfortable to see people so gleeful and revelling in the fall from grace and humiliation of a successful woman who has been the victim of some form of domestic abuse, while the real criminal fades into the background. I don’t care what drugs Nigella may or may not have taken, to me she will always be my favourite food writer and a prime example of triumph through adversity. I will always buy her books. Us girls have got to stick together.

Anyway, to the food. I cooked yellow split pea and frankfurter soup from Nigella’s Feast, a cookbook I don’t actually use all that often. It sounds like an odd choice of soup and not one I’d normally cook, but it’s packed full of symbolism and if you can’t cook for symbolisms sake alone on New Years Day then when can you? The yellow from the split peas symbolises gold whilst the roundness of the peas and the pound coin sized circles of sausage symbolises wealth, so the dish itself is supposed to wish you a year of happiness, wealth and prosperity. Who doesn’t wish for that on the 1st January, the warmth and tidings of Christmas now fading to a distant memory along with your pay packet and perfectly fitting skinny jeans? I’m not superstitious, but it can’t hurt now can it?

The soup is simplicity itself to cook, all the fine dicing of the vegetables is done by the food processor and from there it’s a simple case of throwing everything in a saucepan for an hour until the split peas are soft. I substituted frankfurters for some smoked sausage as The Fiancé is none too keen on them, I’m sure this had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the soup. Before eating I had some trepidation as at some points during the cooking it smelt to me -and sorry if you’re eating- like vomit and as you can see from the photo, didn’t look all that far off it either. I had some back-up tins of tomato soup in the background should it turn out to be disgusting. However, it wasn’t too bad. Comforting and warm on a cold, rainy day with a touch of spice from the mace and surprisingly filling from the peas, it’s a pretty satisfying lunch. Let’s hope it gets me that winning lottery ticket too.

So, Happy New Year to you all, and thank you to those people nagging me about blogging again – it feels good to be back.

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Books, Cooking, Food, Lunch, Nigella Lawson

 

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Always Read The Instructions

I like to think of myself as a competent cook, someone who knows their way round a kitchen and can get to grips with a variety of foods and techniques. But, this does not mean that foolish errors won’t still be made. In fact, perhaps the confidence you gain with becoming a good cook means you’re more likely to get complacent and forget the basics. Such as reading the instructions BEFORE starting to cook instead of halfway through. Basic yes but very easily forgotten! So this was the mistake I made yesterday, with yesterdays recipe being chicken and smoked sausage gumbo from Louisiana Real and Rustic by Emeril Lagasse. Emeril is apparently a big deal in America but I’ve never heard of him, I only picked this book up because I wanted a book on New Orleans food and this happened to be in a second hand book store. Never used it since. Anyway, after spending most of yesterday either asleep or watching TV (a productive day), I finally decided to get off my arse and cook dinner at 7pm. Halfway through chopping peppers, celery and onions I looked halfway down the instructions and saw I needed to simmer it for one hour before adding the meat. Alright, I thought, thats fine, dinner will be a little later than normal but I can live with that. Reading further down I then saw that once the meat is in, it needs another 2 hours simmering. What the?! So this gumbo would not be ready until 10pm? I’m in bed at 10 on a Sunday night, I’m that lame. Nothing could be done about this unfortunate turn of events though, the meat was defrosted (I’d swapped the chicken for duck randomly, so definitely wouldn’t be throwing away the more expensive meat), vegetables chopped and the base sauce of the dish already bubbling away. Too far gone to give up now! Like a trooper I laboured on, and in the time needed to cook everything I managed to dye my hair and clean the fridge, so it ended up being very productive. It’s a shame the dish wasn’t worth the amount of time I had to spend on it. I’ve never had an authentic gumbo, having never been to Louisiana thats not exactly difficult, but I made one before from Jamies’ America cookbook and I have to say that was a lot better. The chef from Essex cooks a better Louisiana gumbo than the chef from Louisiana, what a pity. If you don’t know what gumbo is, it’s a traditional Cajun stew which can include pretty much any meat or seafood, depending what you have on you, as well as a variety of vegetables, but always with a base of  celery, peppers and onions. That parts non-negotiable. It’s a really thick dish and can be spicy, but this recipe wasn’t and I think it really should be as good Cajun food tends to have a lot of spice in it. I have absolutely loads of this leftover, and I halved the recipe to serve 2 instead of 4, so it looks like I’ll be having mediocre gumbo for lunch all week. Lucky me. This recipe just makes me want to fly out to New Orleans to experience authentic gumbo rather than go to the effort of cooking it again, so far not too impressed with this cookbook. As you can see, it doesn’t look very appetising either:

Still, cooking it kept me from tearing my hair out from excessive boredom. I know I spent the last blog entry raving about having some time to myself, but by 3pm Sunday I’d had enough of me, so won’t be doing that again in a hurry if I can help it.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Books, Cooking

 

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