Sunday, 30 July 2017

Beware the Beetroot

I’m not sure that Stuart was overjoyed with one of my cooking choices for our tea one night recently – beetroot risotto!  I make risotto fairly frequently, although not as often as Stuart would prefer with his penchant for things Italian, but I’ve never done one with beetroot in it and it just took my fancy.  The thing with beetroot though is that bathroom visits for a day or two afterwards can be traumatic, especially if you forget what you have eaten – I wasn’t entirely in the good books, particularly as Stuart was awaiting results from a particular test that anyone over fifty will be familiar with…..It looked like a deliberate ploy on my part.  Loved the risotto, might even make it again - fairly straightforward - soften some chopped shallots in butter melted with a little olive oil, add the rice, cook for a couple of minutes, then add white wine.  When that has cooked in, gradually add the stock, blending some cooked beetroot (I used four small ones) with the last of the stock, then add that, some chopped beetroot, green beans and season.  I crumbled some cheese over at the end - this was a ewes milk and goats milk cheese that just had a nice edge to it.

 I’m aware it’s a while since I’ve blogged, but there seem to be so many other things to do.  If the weather has been good at the weekends, I’ve done some gardening; if it rains, then I’ve done a little decorating.  I don’t particularly like wet weather – I would rather be enjoying the sunshine – but it does take away the dilemma of where I should be directing my energies. The weekends do go by far too quickly and I never seem to achieve everything that I hope I will get done, but I'm happy enough if I can say I've made a little progress.

As we had visitors staying for a couple of nights a few weeks ago we were keen to get on with decorating the other double bedroom – it’s amazing how quickly you forget what it was like – and managed to get it finished in time.   
Oct/Nov last year....

....and now.

Our niece Jennifer, seemed to quite like the room - our nephew Daniel got the smaller room, which is still to be finished off (hopefully by the next visit). I really enjoyed their visit and cooking for them on the second night, though I maybe gave myself just a little too much to do, fortunately it all seemed to work out in the end.  I made spiced pea and garlic chapatti balls to start, with chutney, papadoms and salad, then paneer pie and aubergine curry and, after a walk up the hill at the back of the house, brownie and ice cream.  The starter was one I hadn’t done before from the Prashad book – garlic, green chilli, peas, peanuts, coriander leaves and various spices cooked together for the filling.  The recipe tells you to roll the cooled filling into balls, which you then enclose in a plain flour dough.  It did seem a bit of a faff, plus time was getting on, so the filling got mounded on the flattened discs of dough before they were rolled into balls, enclosing the filling, then fried.  A bit different and I really liked the flavour, so would do them again, but give myself more time to do them justice.  The paneer pie was, of course, the recipe from The Cardamom Trail, which I have made a few times already, this been the first time I didn’t halve the quantities in the recipe. The brownies were also from the book – peanut chocolate brownies to be precise, containing peanut butter as well as roasted peanuts – a nice flavour, though I’m not sure I’ve had a brownie I didn’t like (maybe should qualify that by saying I’ve had one or two brownies in cafes that weren’t really brownies but were perfectly nice cakes). Although I served them warm as recommended, they are pretty nice cold, having that gooey texture that a brownie should have.

I had done another three course meal the previous weekend to getting our visitors as it was Helens Birthday (my lovely mother-in-law).  I hadn’t really decided on what to do for the main part of the meal until the night before and even then, I changed my mind about the starter when shopping for the fresh stuff in the morning.  The one thing that had been decided on a little in advance was the dessert (no surprise there given my recent form) – a Bakewell cake!  This was very much influenced by a cake Stuart had on a visit to York in May.  We had tried the wonderful Wheldrakes for a coffee one day – having gone by so many times and looked at the lovely home-made looking cakes in the window, it was about time we gave it a go.  I got a Victoria sponge, which was very nice indeed, coming with cream and strawberries on the side, but Stuart scored with the Bakewell cake – wonderfully almondy with cherry jam, cherries on top with cream and berries on the side. As Stuart hinted heavily that I should make a similar cake as a Birthday cake for his mum, I though I would oblige. The other parts of the Birthday meal were of an Italian bent – a timballo (or pasticcio) to start – pasta in a fairly basic tomato sauce in a pastry shell – the crespelle for the main course - a filled pancake recipe from The Vegeterrarean. The filling was ricotta with julienned carrots and courgettes, the pancakes are rolled, cut into small lengths which are placed in a dish, cut side up, sprinkled with breadcrumbs, parmesan, a little olive oil, then baked for about 15 minutes.
Lots of salad

The baking has continued as ever - I've baked some cakes for after a couple of evening races, which has meant knocking up something between getting home from work and going back out to the running club on a couple of occasions - picking something that needs less than an hour to bake. So I tried the trusted lemon drizzle cake recipe in a traybake tin (so 35 minutes in the oven rather than the usual 60) - that worked quite well.  I made parkin for the first time ever and I tested another brownie recipe from the fourth GBBO book - the recipe gives a few options of what to put in it so I've tried it once with chunks of white chocolate and once with peanuts.  I've promised Stuart that I'm going to do it again soon just for us and take on board that I'm not to portion it up in what he calls "race slices" - ie a bit on the small side for him! That's not to say I haven't done some baking for us - a mocha marble cake and also a lime and black sesame seed (from The Cardamom Trail) are among the cakes that have come and gone, with only a few crumbs of evidence left.

I've also enjoyed making more bread - though that really is something that can't be done in a hurry.  I tried out a new recipe from The Bread Book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake - a book I've had for a number of years and rather love, not just for the recipes but some of the people who have contributed recipes to it.  Anyway, the recipe was for Pioneer Bread - it yielded two sizeable loaves, with the recipe including cornmeal, wholemeal bread flour, rye flour, white bread flour and a few sunflower seeds.  A very tasty bread which froze well too.  The recipe was devised by a Kansas home economist Cindy Falk - a lady who looks less than dough-splattered in the kitchen - maybe she's very tidy, but I don't think I'd want to wear my nice watch and jewellery while messing with dough.  Too risky! 
 A pristine apron too.

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