Monday, 5 October 2015

Recipes that surprise us

Dear Nigel,

Never in a million years would I have thought about adding anchovies to a couple of pork chops. In fact, if I'd looked a bit closer at the ingredients then it might have put me off altogether. And that would have been a pity. The recipe in question is 'Pork chops with mushrooms' (page 379). It is a simple supper dish which was on the table in less than half an hour, which is always a bonus when time is short and you are already hungry. The anchovies are basically chopped and added to the gently fried onion before the mushrooms.

When I tasted this I thought 'wow, much too salty', and I was unsure. But hold fire, add it to the plate with the nicely browned chops which have been finished off in the relish, and let the anchovies do their magic. In much the same way that a tart apple sauce cuts through the fat of a piece of roast pork, the salt of the anchovies has the same effect. The pork also has the effect of tempering the saltiness, and the result is truly delicious. If there was going to be one recipe that has both surprised and inspired me to be more adventurous in my cooking recently, then I think it is this one. Sometimes, I think, we all believe we know exactly what something is going to taste like, just by looking at a recipe, and it can make us hold back from being brave and trying new things.

So thank you, Nigel, you have pleasantly surprised me here. It is a recipe that is both simple and tasty-enough to want to eat on a fairly regular mid-week basis.

I'd forgotten what hard work it is to motivate other people to do something, and how completely exhausting it can be. We had ten cubs with us on Saturday on an Activity Day at Carsington Water. A simple little walk with a few challenges en route....of 8 1/2 miles. There are not many eight year olds who are used to walking these kind of distances regularly - if ever - these days. And keeping up morale, dealing with sore legs, bad temper and those who just sat down like elephants and refused to move, ensured I for one came home ready to drop. The dictionary definition of motivate includes such words as activate, impel, push and propel, and this certainly seemed to be closer to the knuckle.

But, all in all, they all finished the course in good spirits; the last leg of the journey, spurred on by the thought of a cooked hamburger at the end of it. I was pleased to see that the burgers were of good quality - thick and meaty and not leaching out lots of fat - and that the area support team were doing a good job in mass catering to dozens of small tired children.

Half way round the course there was an old WW2 watchtower  where they used to observe bombing practise. Today it was being used to raise a poor old teddy bear down on rope as an injured person. The 'rope' involved tying several shorter bits all together with different knots. For children more used to closing Velcro than tying shoe laces, it was certainly a challenge. Twice teddy came down with a loop round his neck instead of under his arms...I don't think we've got as far as the first aid badge with our pack.

Sunday was time out. Tissington village, not far from Ashbourne, is a small feudal estate village which is very pretty and pleasant to visit. At the far end of the village, tucked away, is 'Edward and Vintage' which is a wonderful old fashioned sweet shop, decked out in an old fashioned way with bunting and jars on shelves and lots of blue grey paintwork; and is a favourite with my own children. Apart from the usual boiled sweets, sugar mice and other memories of a distant childhood, they have started to make trays of their own delicious fudge in the back kitchen. Recipes such as lemon cheesecake and chocolate and ginger are very popular. I can personally vouch for the chocolate and ginger. Like many places these days they can't just rely on passing trade and do a great deal of their business on line. I bought a Ration book for my mum last year so that she could ring up (or go on line) and choose a few old favourites for herself.

As a place to wander Tissington is very pretty,with its central duck pond and lovely old cottages with their gardens of giant rose hips and wandering bantams. There is a candle maker doing sterling trade at the other end of the village; yet she also manages to sell her stuff  far afield. I have seen candles from 'On a wick and a prayer' in the National Trust shops of Northumberland; and yet most of the work is still done out of the back of an old shed in Tissington which I think is great.

One little known fact (which particularly interests me) is that you can choose any of the scented candles that she does and have your own containers filled or refilled. The cost is extremely minimal for this (in my mind); and yet how lovely to have something that is treasured by you, or a present for a friend, put to a good use once more. I take my favourite large candle bowls there each winter for refilling ready in time for Christmas with 'Dark Amber', which seems to me more the essence of deep winter and yuletide than some of the 'Christmas' scents she offers. But come and sniff for yourself.

Last year 'Father Christmas' (who is in the habit of leaving food-inspired gifts) left jars of the most lovely 'goo' in the stockings of all my older children. This 'goo', or spread (if you like) is a recent find of mine and was universally popular. It is called 'Biscoff' and is basically those lovely little caramelised biscuits (made by a company called Lotus) that you get on the side of your latte or cappuccino, all crunched up into some kind of spread. I think you are supposed to put this on bread, perhaps, but most of my children ate it straight out of the jar with a spoon. This evening I thought I would make a super-quick cheat's apple 'crumble' with nothing more than an eating apple stuck in the microwave and a dollop of this on top. A fireside treat. The mixture tastes even better with the gentle warmth from the cooked apple. A singular treat, I think, for those times when no one else is looking...

From the end of the sofa, with my feet on the coffee table,

Martha x      (...bliss..)

1 comment:

  1. I made myself sick eating that stuff! It's like crack cocaine!! And THE CALORIES!!!