Winter into Spring 2021
COVID Springs Eternal
Roadside Early Daffodils
Spring is sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the boidies is
They say the boid is on the wing
But that's absoid, the wing is on the boid!

Happy Easter!

Ah, daffodil buds are finally appearing alongside the garbage-strewn road that leads to my nephew's school. In a good year they get the chance to blossom into flowers before the local school kids kick all their heads off.

In the movie of my life George Winston will provide the soundtrack to this time of year.
Though Spike Milligan made a good stab at lampooning the rainy season with recitals of his lovely pome. Well, not his. Author Unknown, apparently.

Over Easter I took time off to visit my yacht up in Newcastle, chase away the nesting seagulls and scrape off their Christmas presents.
Naturally it snowed. Welcome to Global Warming!
I spent the first couple of days aboard wallowing in the joy of Pringles after my Lentern abstention, and then buckled down to some overdue maintenance before clearing all my worldly possession out of the boat in preparation for selling her. Sigh 😢 Some of my worldly drinkables ended up in my tummy too.

Unfortunately, it turns out that all my worldly possessions won't fit into a moderately sized camper van, so Kurt and I will have to make a return trip in a few weeks to finish the job off. Meanwhile he's staunchly putting up with a large pile of some of my worldly possessions in the middle of his cellar floor.

Pretty Good vinegars Pretty Poor vinegars
When not on release from the Covid lockdown, chez Sourville we spend a lot of our time bickering over the cooking, shopping, and whether or not we should all sit and gawp at the tellybox while we eat dinner. I prefer the stimulation of conversation. But then, given where I'm living maybe I should just settle for the tellybox?

On the subject of shopping - I was forced, forced to order some rather nice Forvm wine vinegars which I can highly recommend from Melbury and Appleton (which definitely doesn't sound like a made up posh food company), due to the unusable ghastly supermarket horrors my brother bought us.

When you're on a high-salad diet, the quality of your dressings become depressingly important. But these matured vinegars definitely help.
And so, I've been doing healthy things with melons, and I finally managed to make a decent roast out of a topside beef joint, after years of trying, though it was not to everyone's taste 😉

Lastly, George's school has moved on from pushing Rice Krispies to pimping out Corn Flakes. Forcing me to adapt accordingly. Fortunately they haven't yet cut off my bagel supply - which is currently just about my only source of carbohydrates.
Those pounds don't lose themselves!

Slow-Roast Chicken with Fondant Potatoes
main staple fowl
This seemed like a fortuitous combination which requires surprisingly little supervision, for the most part.
Though I'm sure it's not quite the best way of roasting chicken, it may be the easiest.
It's basically this chicken roasting process with added potatoes.

Serves a Family

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 1.
Peel potatoes that aren't too floury and liable to fall apart. Cut them in half (lengthways or crossways - you decide) slice the opposite side flatter, then run a peeler or a small knife around the flat parts, turning them into vaguely barrel shapes, to remove the sharp edges that might burn. Put them in a bowl of water while you heat up a baking dish just large enough to hold them, half-filled with (ideally) chicken stock and flavoured with a few herbs and garlic cloves.

Mash up some butter, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and any herbs you like. Using a dessertspoon shove the mixture between the chicken breast and skin. Season the chicken cavity, fill with herbs of any description you fancy, and close with half a lemon.
Slice up some onions and layer them in the bottom of an oven tin. Put in the chicken, breast down, season, and smear over a little more butter. Surround the chicken with a few peeled carrots (cut lengthwise or into chunks if you prefer), a tablespoonful of liquid, loosely cover with foil and put in the middle of the oven.
Put the potatoes into the baking dish so the stock almost covers them, add a generous amount of butter (at least a couple of tablespoons), cover the dish lightly with foil, and put them in the top of the oven.
Now leave them for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, turn the oven up to Gas Mark 6.
Turn the potatoes over in the stock, uncover and return to the top shelf of the oven.
Turn the chicken breast-side up, smear with a little more butter and add a little liquid if required. Return, uncovered, to the middle of the oven.

You'll need to check on them occasionally now, but the chicken should be done after about 45 minutes, at which point you can take it out to rest before carving. At this point turn the potatoes, which by now should be roasting in pure fat and let the other side crisp up. Carve the chicken, strain the juices from the roasting tin and serve together with the potatoes and carrots.
The timing works pretty well, though you have to watch the potatoes pretty carefully towards the end if you want them crispy but not burned.
The chicken may take longer than advertised 😉

Cornflake Chicken
fowl main
Chicken covered with cornflakes and baked. Or are they corn flakes?
I followed Epicurious's transcription of the recipe. With added flour.
You could probably substitute Rice Krispies™ for the cornflakes.

The topping is crunchy. Though it also tastes distinctly of cornflakes.

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5-6/190-200°C.
Beat the egg with a splash of milk a couple of tablespoons will do in a bowl.
Put the cornflakes in a hole-free plastic bag and crush them up by running a rolling pin back and forth across the bag. They need to be reasonably fine, but not dust. Empty into a bowl.
Season a little flour in another bowl.
Thoroughly dry your chicken bits.
I used what my Local Fucking Supermarket™ calls chicken mini fillets. Which are in fact just a collection of random skinned, boned, chicken bits.
I couldn't really get mine dry enough - hence the flour.
Roll each chicken bit in seasoned flour, shake off any excess, coat completely in the egg wash, shake of any excess, roll in the cornflakes to coat thoroughly, then lay on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil or butter if you like.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through.
They're tasty enough, though a bit (ok, a lot) on the dry side. You'll need a dip or a sauce. Or a rich chicken gravy.
Serve with mash and some seriously good homemade coleslaw and pretend like you're at KFC.

Seriously Good Homemade Coleslaw
salad veg
It's actually just a pretty run-of-the-mill coleslaw, but it does have the advantage of tasting pretty much like KFC's. Well, as long as you don't add the celery seeds.
Perfect for budding little Philistines!

Serves 10

Quarter the cabbage through the core, and then cut out the core. Cut each quarter crosswise in half and finely shred. Place the shredded cabbage in a very large bowl (you will have 6 to 8 cups).

Add the shredded carrot and parsley to the cabbage and toss to mix.

In a separate bowl, stir the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, celery seeds, salt, and pepper together. Taste for acidity and seasoning then adjust as desired. Add a little sugar too, if you like. Pour two-thirds of the dressing over the cabbage and carrot then mix well. (Clean hands are the quickest tool - as the actress said to the bishop!).

If the coleslaw seems dry, add a little more of the dressing. Eat right away or let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour to let the flavors mingle and the cabbage to soften. The longer the cabbage sits in the coleslaw dressing, the softer and less crunchy it will become.
If you left this in a giant bucket out in the hallway for a week, it would be indistinguishable from KFC's 😉

Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce
main meat crockpot
Obviously you could add mushrooms, bacon, chorizo, etc. Even cream cheese!

Serves 6

Sear the pork chops in small batches in a very hot frying pan with a little olive oil. Add a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes, if you're in the mood.
Add the tomato purée and stir around the pan until any harsh aroma has cooked off and the oil begins to separate.

Thoroughly rinse out the pan with a little reduced stock and decant everything into the slow cooker.
Season, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4.

Serve over pasta with grated cheese.
The sauce is really tasty.
The chops, not so much. Tender yes, but rather dry I thought. You need to shred (or pull) them into the sauce to get any juice or flavour out of (into?) them.

Sausage Braised with Brussels Sprouts and Caraway Seeds
main meat
You can make this with wedges of white cabbage instead of the sprouts.
In fact, it was just such a recipe which inspired me.

Serves 3

Fry the sausages with a generous amount of fat over a moderate heat to brown them nicely. Set them aside. Finely chop the onion and add to the pan and fry, gently, until starting to caramalize.
You may want to discard the existing fat and start again with the onions, since those sausage juices do have a nasty tendency to burn.
Meanwhile heat a little oil and butter in an oven-proof pot if you plan on finishing this in the oven. Press the sprouts into the pot, cut side down, and fry over high heat until they scorch a little. Throw in the caraway seeds and the caramelized onions.
De-glaze the frying pan with apple juice or cider and chicken stock. Bubble to reduce about half, then add to the pot.
Stir the onion and sprouts and lay the sausages on top. Cover and put in a moderate Gas Mark 4 oven for 15-30 minutes or simmer for 15 minutes on the stove-top.

Stir through a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, if you like, and serve with some good German mustard and mashed potatoes.
Rather tasty.

Excellent Roast Topside, Finally!
meat main
I've been fiddling around trying to reasonably roast topside and silverside joints by slower and slower cooking with more and more liquid only to end up with increasingly stringy, dried-out, flavourless meat. Sorry Flora! And the solution was right there at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan all the time. Just roast the joint at the highest temperature your oven will go until it's done.

Well, of course, there's a bit of dry rubbing and resting and so on, but that's basically it. Despite the fact that the meat joint Fabio uses seems (as far as I can tell without actually speaking Italian) to be a piece of short loin, cut from the front or fattier end of the cow's back and including a section of tenderloin, his method produced my best topside joint yet with a lovely tasty crust and juicy succulent pink centre. You do have to slice it super-thinly to best experience it, and Philistines won't like the fact that it isn't brown and dry like the beef they're used to, doesn't taste like burned string vest or come apart like Shredded Wheat; but some sacrifices do have to be made for the Greater Steak.

Speaking of sacrifices, you'll struggle to prepare the usual accompaniments of roast potatoes or Yorkshire puddings in the blazing hot oven. You have half an hour while the meat rests to try and cook them, unless of course you live with the kind of Philistines who eat frozen roast potatoes (yup, they're a thing!) or frozen Yorkshires (also a thing), ready in mere minutes.

Serves 4

Bring the joint up to room temperature in good time for cooking. Tie loosely with butcher's twine to help it hold its shape while roasting. Mix together 40% of the meat's weight in cane sugar and 20% in fine sea salt. Contrary to Alssandro and Fabio's instructions I added a couple of teaspoons of English mustard powder. But then I am English. Rub all over the joint, then set the joint on an oven rack to season for about 30 minutes. You'll need to put it over a dish to catch the juices which will leak off as moisture is drawn from the meat.
Pre-heat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9. Basically as hot as it will go.

Drizzle the joint with olive oil and place fat-side up on a rack over an oven tray. You should probably line the oven tray with foil for ease of cleaning.
I rather thought I might be able to use the juices caught in the tray to make up a gravy but all the drippings will just burn horribly. And you don't want to add any liquid to the tray because that will interfere with the high-temperature roasting of the meat.
Put the joint in the centre or upper half of the oven and roast for something like 15 minutes, plus 15 minutes per pound. Turn the joint occasionally and check the temperature towards the end. Remove from the oven when the centre reaches 48°C.
My 1kg joint took exactly 45 minutes.
Set aside to rest for 30-35 minutes yes, really! turning occasionally to prevent the juices inside from all settling to one side. Though I very loosely covered mine with foil, the Italians recommend not doing so. However, they also seem not to mind cold meat.
Finally, cut away the string, slice the meat thinly and serve with your sauce of choice. Horseradish cream, mustard, salsa verde, chimichurri, gribiche, bearnaise sauce, or even gravy.
(Though you'll have to make the gravy separately - you won't get any gravy juices from this topside joint - they're all still inside. Or burned!)

Melon Mixed Salad
salad meat
Who knew that you could fuck up canning sweetcorn? Well, Morrisons supermarket does. Their own-label corn taste like unsweetened polystyrene.
So best avoided.

Serves 4

Peel and deseed the melon, and the courgettes if you like.
Cut up the melon, beetroot, courgette and the ham into about 1cm cubes. Mix with the sweetcorn chopped red pepper and broccoli or cauliflower florets are also acceptable additions.

Mince or mash the anchovies and shake up with the citrus juice, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
Add as much finely grated parmesan as the mixture will reasonably absorb, then add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise and a glug of olive oil to thicken the mixture.
Spice it up with a little horseradish or mustard. If you like.

Serve the dressed salad over torn lettuce or rocket leaves.
Not too dusty. I was thinking of adding some feta cheese and black olives too. Maybe I should have?

Melon and Avocado Salad
salad veg
Not particularly original I suppose, but if you slice the melon and avocado similarly and rack them up next to each other they do look rather pretty 🙂

Serves 1 person per avocado

Peel the melon and avocado and remove their seeds or stones. Slice them both evenly into the same generous thickness.
Alternate the slices on serving plates, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, scatter with chopped coriander leaves and bacon bits and serve with a decoratively cut tomato.
Pretty and delicious!

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