Archives for the month of: April, 2015

Patience‘s galley is very small. 1.6m square to be precise. A micro kitchen if you like.

But well equipped with a gas hob, an oven, a grill, a fridge that works off gas or mains, enough but not too much space for crockery, cutlery, glasses, pots, pans, groceries and cleaning things. Hot and cold running water.

As with all good cooks’ kitchens it’s open plan. I, or Richard, can cook while the other one works, chats, reads or even sits out on the bow with a glass of wine watching the swans sail by.

The truth is there isn’t space for more than one in the galley at the same time. The flip side being everything is at hand. At the stretch of an arm you can open the fridge, fling a dish in the oven, survey your supplies, wash a couple of dishes and turn up the music on the radio. It’s pretty perfect. Nothing unnecessary. No wasted space.

The best thing about it is – a window with a view. A view that might change by the day or by the hour. Water, always water and reflections. Rural countryside, verdant and green.  Inner city grit with old industrial buildings and graffiti. The sun passes overhead, clouds appear and disappear.  The moon rises and sets. The water one minute muddy, the next golden, and then inky black.

It’s nice being back on board Patience in the galley having been away for too long. And it’s good to rediscover some of the ingredients we left languishing on board. It’s even better to discover that they can still be used, ‘best before’ dates notwithstanding.

We’ve only cooked a couple of meals so far. Last night we made a salad with a savoy cabbage and carrots we bought at the street market in Buckingham. I marinated some chicken in black bean sauce, stir fried it and added that to Richard’s finely shredded cabbage and match stick carrot. It was good.

Tonight I made roasted asparagus with chicken, tomato, clementine, feta and pine nuts while Richard sat a couple of feet away from me and finished writing a script.

asparagus horizantal

The asparagus also came from the market in Buckingham. I was very pleased to see that it was grown in the UK. I just couldn’t have brought myself to buy asparagus if it had come from the opposite end of the world.

I sprinkled the asparagus with togarashi seasoning and salt from Slovenia ( a gift from my sister Penny) all left on Patience from our previous trip.

According to Wikipedia tōgarashi (唐辛子) is Japanese for genus Capsicum and commonly translated as chili pepper. When the term is used in English, it refers to any number of chili peppers or chili pepper-related products from Japan, including Shichimi tōgarashi, a condiment that is a mixture of seven different ingredients that varies by maker.

The seven alchemical ingredients are: chili powder, orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, ginger powder, Szechuan pepper and seaweed. I’ll definitely be using this fragrant spicy powder in many different ways in the coming weeks, and then I might try to make a version of it myself too.

roasted asparagus

Here’s the recipe. I think you could easily substitute the chicken for aubergine and/or red peppers or perhaps butternut.

Roasted asparagus with togarashi, chicken, tomato, clementine, feta and pine nuts

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 boneless chicken thighs marinated in black bean paste and stir fried
  • a bunch of asparagus
  • togarashi seasoning
  • two smallish tomatoes cut into eighths
  • one clementine halved
  • a handful of toasted pine nuts
  • a handful of crumbled feta
  • a handful of chopped parsley

Method

Put the asparagus in a single layer in a roasting dish and toss with a little olive oil, sprinkle with togarashi seasoning and salt. Roast in a hot oven for five minutes. Add the tomato, juice and flesh of one half of the clementine and the other half of the clementine whole. Continue roasting for another five minutes. Add the cooked chicken, feta, pine nuts and parsley. Roast until nicely warmed through. Be sure not to overcook the asparagus.

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I am guilty of getting obsessed with some things culinary – recipes by a certain chef, for example Nigel Slater, a favourite dish like posset or fruit curds, a place to shop like the Oxford Covered Market, an ingredient along the lines of lamb shoulder, rhubarb, lemons or star anise…

Today I got to satisfy a couple of my current obsessions in one fell swoop and in so doing created a simple supper for a group of friends.

It all started at the Oxford Covered Market a few days ago. I was dawdling though the market marveling at the array of food shops – fishmonger to cheese shop,

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butcher to coffee shop,

Italian delicatessen to green grocer

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– when my eye settled on a couple of boxes of rhubarb.

There was no way I’d be going home without a bag of rhubarb. The question was which of the two types would it be? The one lot were elegant thin prettily pink sticks from the Wye Valley at £6.95 and the others were from Yorkshire – heftier, darker, more sculptural stems adorned with lovely leafy fronds. Price £4.95 per kilo. Impossible to choose.

‘They’ll be sweeter, won’t they?’ said the greengrocer of the delicate pink ones, and I suspected he was right.  But what if the less beautiful, cheaper ones actually had a better flavour? I mean it’s not all about sweetness with rhubarb, is it?

After spending an agonizing few minutes weighing my options,I decided I had better have some of each. I’d do a taste test.

As I was paying for the rhubarb the greengrocer asked rather tentatively ‘Have you bought rhubarb before, then?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but not from you.’

‘It’s quite old fashioned isn’t it? Generally, it’s older people who buy it.’  Hmmm, well what exactly did he mean, I thought indignantly.

But all I said was, ‘Really?’ And then he came out with a real shocker.

‘To be honest, I’ve never cooked it myself… What are you going to do with it?’ He sold the stuff — how was it possible that he’d never cooked it? Somehow, though, his ignorance gave me all the assurance he lacked. This is what I told him:

‘I’m going to slow-roast a shoulder of lamb on a bed of rhubarb and then make a rhubarb posset for dessert.’ The thought of making two batches of the same thing merely to test which of the varieties of rhubarb was the better seemed like a very shoddy one indeed and I jettisoned it without a qualm.

The greengrocer was suitably impressed, and I marched out of the Covered Market with my double pack of rhubarb, and a steely determination to prove that it’s not something that the old, but rather the adventurous, use to create a memorable dish.

Back at our temporary residence in Cumnor, just west of Oxford, I dug out (on the internet) a couple of old favourites: Nigel Slater’s recipe for lamb cutlets cooked with rhubarb  and his rhubarb posset.  Then I dashed down the road to Michael Cain & Family Butchers to buy a free range lamb shoulder.

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Rhubarb Posset

I changed Nigel’s recipe slightly and oven roasted the rhubarb with a stick of cinnamon, three fresh bay leaves, the rind of a lemon, 10 black peppercorns and a cup of water.  Then once the rhubarb was cooked I reduced the reserved liquid by boiling it with the the bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns and lemon rind for ten minutes.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder

I rubbed the lamb with seven spice power, chili flakes, salt and pepper and placed it on the bed of chopped onion, rhubarb, celery and a small handful of star anise in the base of a heavy ovenproof dish. I roasted it covered for about five hours at 140 C.  Serve with a gravy made from the vegetables.All you need to go with this is a simple green salad and maybe potatoes.  Or celeriac purée à la Nigel Slater.

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There is very little more comforting on a cold rainy day than sitting in front of a fire in a cosy cottage looking out over the countryside drinking a steaming mug of tea and eating a slice of hot toast slathered with melting butter and sticky honey.

This week I did find myself on a cold rainy day sitting in front of a fire in a cosy cottage, looking out over a field filled with sheep, rabbits, beehives and birds, drinking a steaming mug of tea. In front of me was a gorgeous jar of golden honey from the bees in the hives but I had no bread to turn into toast.

Southfield Cottage, is in the village of Braunston where our narrowboat Patience is moored. Patience is currently undergoing an overdue and much needed lick of paint and so because we were keen to document her change from rust-bucket to sleek shiny narrowboat we decided to spend a couple of days at the start of the painting process in Braunston.

Southfield Cottage not only overlooks the picturesque field described above but provides a vantage point from which to survey both the hills in the distance and the marina below. You can in fact see our mooring from the front door of the cottage.

Looking from Southfield cottage to Braunston marina

We were thrilled to find Southfield on the internet, even more thrilled when we walked into the cottage and found one of the most beautiful and stylish cottages imaginable and delighted by the jar of Southfield honey we found waiting for us on the kitchen counter.

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Since I couldn’t indulge in honey on hot buttered toast I set my mind to thinking about what else I could do with it. We could of course have it for breakfast with Greek yoghurt and chopped almonds  – and we did the next day – but what could I do with it immediately?

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Supper was coming up and we were planning a sort of a breadless ‘ploughman’s’  supper using bits and pieces in the fridge – cheese, pickled peppers, cucumber, a sausage, green beans and an onion.

How could honey fit in with that?

It was in fact exactly what I needed to transform the raw onion into something a lot more palatable.  And with the addition of herbs growing in an old porcelain basin outside the cottage door I made a pan of slow cooked onions with sage, rosemary, lavender and thyme.

A perfect accompaniment to our breadless ploughman’s.

And then the next night, sticking with the traditional theme, I made a honey and lemon posset.

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I naturally got very sidetracked by the delights of what my friend Google threw at me when writing this blog. Check out some of the joys to be found out there:

Slow cooked onion with honey and herbs

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • A handful of herbs – I used thyme, sage, rosemary and a little lavender
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Very slowly fry the onions in butter on a low heat until they are soft, adding more butter if necessary. Add the herbs, honey, salt and pepper and continue frying very slowly until golden brown and starting to crisp on the edges.

Serve with warm or at room temperature with:

  • Cheese
  • Sausages
  • Lettuce and tuna
  • Roasted vegetables

Lemon Posset

Ingredients

  • 850 ml double cream
  • Juice of 2 to 3 lemons ( should have measured this – I used 2 1/2 lemons)
  • Zest of two lemons, very finely grated
  • 60 ml honey
  • 4 tablespoons sugar

Method

Mix the cream, sugar, honey and lemon zest together. Bring slowly to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for three minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and mix in the lemon juice. Divide between six ramekins. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Garnish with a few berries and  serve with honey flavored biscuits.