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A Very Panna Cotta Christmas
A very Panna Cotta Christmas

A very successful Christmas dinner this year - possibly our best yet. Everything was ready on time (well, at the same time) and we managed not to burn any of it! Now if I can only find that perfect starter...

As is now traditional, Flora joined Kurt, myself and his delightful children for the Big Day. Though this year she arrived sans oysters. Tut. We just had to make do with extra rounds of bloody marys instead. The pain!
She did make up for it by not forcing me outside for a walk through the woods to the pub on Boxing Day this year - I suspect she was just too hungover. Which meant I didn't get out of my pyjamas for a whole month. Much to Kurt's neighbours discomfort. Well really - what else is Christmas for?

Things we got right this year:
  • When the goose is cooked to your brother's satisfaction remove it from the Gas Mark 3 oven, cover thoroughly in tin foil, and leave in a warm place. It will keep its heat for a good hour, which means you can now fill the oven with potatoes and parsnips to roast perfectly at their preferred high temperature without burning the goose to a cinder. Six hours from kickoff to chowdown for our 6kg goose.
  • We wisely decided, despite my careful warm-up exercises, not to attempt anything more demanding with the sprouts than steaming them. So they came out quite edible. If dull.
Back to my cold, damp boat now I suppose. Sigh.
Roll on next Christmas.


Stilton Panna Cotta with Balsamic Glaze
starter veg
Following the failure of my jerusalem artichoke soup to impress, I decided to go with blue cheese panna cottas for this year's starter.
Stilton seemed appropriately Christmassy, though other softer blue cheeses are also available. And perhaps preferable!

The flavour is pretty intense - so ideally you want to make them quite small, perhaps about the size of an egg cup. Feel free to play with the proportions of cheese to cream. I had the idea of incorporating ricotta into the mix too, but I didn't like the resulting graininess.

A tablespoon of powdered gelatin (one packet), equivalent to 4 gelatin sheets, should be enough to soft-set 1 pint of liquid. Meaning 1 sheet should set 120ml, so I figured that 1½ sheets should be good to set 180ml, leaving ¼ sheet for the glaze.

Makes 180ml - about 3 egg cups.

Ingredients

  • For the Panna Cotta:
  • 1½ sheets gelatine
  • about 130ml of cream
  • 50g stilton
  • sugar to taste

  • For the Glaze:
  • ¼ sheet of gelatine
  • 1 tblsp of (brown) sugar
  • 1 tblsp of port
  • 2 tblsps of balsamic vinegar
Method
Set the gelatine sheets to soften in cold water. Squeeze them out before using.

Put the sugar, port and balsamic vinegar in a small pan and simmer until reduced by about half, then add about ¼ sheet of gelatine and stir to dissolve.
Pour this into the bottom of your egg cup, ramekin, or other mould.

Mash the stilton with a fork. Bring the cream almost to a simmer, stir in 1½ sheets gelatine until they dissolve, then blend in the stilton. Add a little sugar if you like.
Allow to cool off before carefully filling your mould without disturbing the balsamic glaze too much a little mixing is fine - the cream should float on top anyway.
Put in the fridge to set.

To serve: dip the mould briefly in boiling water to loosen, then turn out onto a plate. Serve with a small salad, and perhaps some figs or pear slices.
I rather liked them, but fair to say they weren't popular with the Philistine Family. They were also a bit on the massive side - about the disturbing size and shape of a pork pie, due to the limited range of moulds on offer. Still better than last year's starter though :)
Hello Kitty Dinners
Hello Kitty

I've been staying with Flora in Edinburgh to get out of my cold, damp boat in the run up to Christmas, during which visit Flora's lodger Wee Emma has been demonstrating meals from ingenious marketing company Hello Kitty Fresh which sends out complete cook-it-yourself recipe packs with ingredients and instructions for the culinarily challenged. And they're not half bad.
Though only one of them seems to have made it into a write-up below.
Anyway, I wish I'd thought of that!

It's a subscription service - you get to decide how many meals a week you're going to eat (all of them??), select your recipes, choose the number of servings you want, order online, then hey presto it all gets delivered to your local parcel depot while you're out. Thus removing the terrible agony of shopping for your own ingredients.
It'll never catch on.

In our Hello Kitty-free days we've been knocking up meals from whatever we can find in Flora's house, so that's been mostly duck, gin and champagne.
Chin-chin...
An Army Of Bastards
Scary Pumpkin

It seems over recent decades our society has spawned an army of bastards dedicated to destroying everything I love.
Doctor Woke Who, Star Wars, Star Trek (If you are averse to having your Sexually Transmitted Disease ridden Sci-Fi series lecture you on how woke you should be then check out The Orville!), Alien (Who knew that Ridley Scott was a pretentious, self-indulgent, talentless hack who had no idea what made his own movies great?), Yorkie bars, breakfast cereals, jams, alcohol, fat, sugar, salt. The list is endless - containing as it does every foodstuff which doesn't taste of shit, cardboard or kale.

Where do they come from these new puritans?
Perhaps that's not the right question - the prodnoses and the interferons have always been with us, and used to find a warm welcome in the local church. Perhaps the question is, now that religion has lost its power over men's minds, how have these self-appointed nannys managed to so effectively infiltrate not only the organs of state, but commerce as well. We seem to be drowning under wave after wave of centralising neo-authoritarians determined that neither democracy nor capitalism shall prevent them from dictating how the rest of us live. You might think that taking to the sea would provide effective relief, but unfortunately we all have to come ashore sometimes. If you're really unlucky that shore might be Ireland, but with the arrival of minimum alcohol pricing Scotland ain't far behind :(

So, Happy Birthday to Me?
Have an army of boat dishes...

Porc et Citrouille aux Pruneaux
Pork, Pumpkin and Prune Pot Roast
meat main crockpot
I added some pumpkin 'tis the season!, spices, and a bit more meat to Roumette's recipe. I'm sure other squash and potatoes would also be acceptable additions, particularly if then served with, say, couscous.

Serves 6

Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • a few inches of cassia or cinnamon
  • half a dozen cloves
  • 1 culinary pumpkin
  • 1.5kg shoulder pork
  • 300ml double cream
  • ½ bottle white wine
  • a dozen garlic cloves, peeled, whole
  • 1 handful fresh sage leaves
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • a dozen whole prunes
  • salt & pepper
  • water or stock to cover
Method
Remove any skin from the pork and chop into large chunks.
Cook the whole spices in oil until they fizz and release their aroma, then fry the pork in batches as necessary to brown.
Finely chop the onion and add to the pan, stirring briefly to coat in the oil, then add the wine, whole peeled garlic cloves, half the prunes, and a handful of sage, thinly sliced if you like. Season and add enough water to cover if required. Stew in a slow cooker, or bring to the boil and cook in a low oven for 2 hours, adding more water as necessary.
Peel and de-seed the pumpkin, cut into large chunks and add to the pot. Then add the rest of the prunes and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the pumpkin softens.
Stir in the cream and serve.
Pretty good stew. The sage works really well, though I was dubious.
Roumette suggests serving with green beans and some boiled potatoes crushed with fried leeks.

Porc aux Pruneaux
Pork with prunes
main meat stew
I bought a 1.2kg pork loin roasting joint that had been rolled and tied round with string at intervals. Then I sliced each of the fat tied steaks off and fried them separately.

Serves 6

Ingredients
  • 2 lb/1kg boned pork loin steaks or noisettes, rolled and tied if necessary
  • 15-20 pitted prunes
  • ½ bottle white wine
  • butter for frying
  • seasoned flour
  • 1 onion or a half dozen shallots, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken (or pork!) stock
  • 500ml cream
  • a few tablespoons of crème fraîche
  • a bunch of chives, chopped
  • Dijon mustard optional
  • redcurrant jelly optional
Method
Put the prunes and the wine in a small saucepan, leave to soak for a few hours, then bring to a simmer for 10 minutes to soften the prunes.
Set aside.

Generously season a plate of flour with salt and freshly ground mixed peppercorns.
Heat a generous knob of butter in large frying pan until it stops foaming and starts to brown, then roll each loin steak in the seasoned flour to coat and fry in the butter, in batches as necessary without overloading the pan. Decant each steak into a casserole dish or large pan when nicely golden on both sides. Cut off their strings, if they have any.
Finally fry the finely chopped onion, add the sliced garlic towards the end, and add to the casserole.
Actually I didn't add them to the casserole here because I forgot, and instead continued with them after casseroling the pork (which I had prepared a night earlier and then left to finish the next evening) by pouring the cooking liquor onto the cooked onion, reducing and then adding the cream. Which was fine, but they'd probably be better simmered with the meat.
Add the saucepan of wine and half of the prunes to the casserole, reserving the rest for serving, add the stock, cover and cook in the oven, or simmer on the stovetop for 20 minutes or half an hour until the meat is tender.

Place the meat on a warmed serving platter, degrease the cooking liquid this is where I added my onion then boil until it reduces by about half, stir in the cream and crème fraîche and bubble until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. You could flavour with redcurrant jelly, or mustard, or lemon juice, or anything else you fancy at this stage.
Stir in the chopped chives and the reserved prunes, pour over the pork steaks on the platter and serve.
Excellent.
I served mine with well-boiled potatoes, slightly crushed into a pan of spring onions; roughly chopped and lightly fried in a remarkably large amount of butter (I would have used chopped leeks, but apparently they are not readily available in Galway), and a bowl of Green Beans with Garlic, Lemon and Green Olives Yumsk!

Belly Pork with Black Beans
main meat oriental stew
A recipe for Belly Pork in Black Bean Sauce, without going to the trouble of making the black bean sauce before-hand.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • peanut oil for frying
  • 2lb belly pork, cut into 1½" chunks
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 green peppers, chopped into fat chunks
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped into fat chunks
  • 1-2 carrots alternatively
  • ½ savoy cabbage, finely sliced alternatively
  • 2" ginger, peeled, grated
  • half a dozen garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 finely sliced scallions
  • 4 tablespoons fermented black beans
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot red pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • a good glug of Chinese rice wine or sherry or Madeira
  • 1 cup water or chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour dissolved in water
  • 2-3 cooked potatoes, roughly chopped

  • To Serve:
  • 3 scallions diagonally sliced into 2"-3" chunks
  • sesame oil
Method
Rinse the black beans (or the sauce will be too salty), drain and roughly mash with a fork. Set aside.
Boil the potatoes until they're soft and fall off a piercing knife. Peel and chop roughly. Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a large frying pan and fry the belly pork, in batches as necessary, to nicely brown. Set aside in a large pan.
Re-oil the pan and fry the chopped onion over high heat until softening. Add to the pan.
Fry the green pepper briefly over high heat until lightly seared. Don't overcook or they'll lose all their crunch by the end. Add to the pan.
Fry the celery over high heat until lightly seared. Don't overcook or they'll lose all their crunch by the end. Add to the pan

Generously re-oil the pan and fry the ginger gently until it colours and raw smell has gone.
Add the pureéd garlic and fry a little.
Add the finely chopped scallions.
Add the washed fermented black beans and fry until aromatic.
Add the rice wine or sherry, rice vinegar, sugar, hot pepper sauce, soy sauce and stock. Add the cornflour dissolved in water and stir through without boiling yet.
Add to the large pan and heat on low. Stir occasionally until the sauce starts to thicken, then carefully stir in the potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes until warmed through, then serve with sliced scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Very good.
Also good made with 2 chunked carrots fried up instead of the green pepper and the celery, and with half a savoy cabbage - very thinly sliced, added to the large pan just before adding the liquid and heating.

Although you'd typically eat it with (jasmine perhaps) rice, mashed potato or even slices of baked parsley polenta also work.

Green Beans with Garlic, Lemon and Green Olives
side veg vegan
A sort of cut-down version of St John's Green Beans, Shallots, Garlic and Anchovies

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 200g green beans, topped, tailed, cut into manageable lengths
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1 can green olives stuffed with anchovies (if you have some)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tsps green peppercorns in brine optional
  • salt & pepper
Method
Trim the beans and cut into manageable lengths. Bring a pan of water to the boil, drop in the beans, bring back to the boil and simmer for a minute or two so the beans will be tender but retain some texture. Drain, then mix with a generous dose of olive oil, the crushed garlic and the lemon zest.
Halve the green olives and add.
Throw in some pickled green peppercorns if you have some and think they'll be nice.
Season.
Very quick, easy and quite good.

Scrambled Porridge Eggs
breakfast veg
It is possible to combine porridge (or at least, fine oats) and scrambled eggs into a single dish. But it's hardly worth it. Oh sure, you can turn out some especially creamy porridge, but the eggs lose much of their own independent silky richness.
And if you try cooking the eggs and oats together from the start you need to so overcook the eggs to soften the oats that they turn granular and rubbery.

Unless you are short of pans, better to cook the porridge and scrambled eggs separately, but if you absolutely must eat eggy porridge, or you have a boat-load of porridge to use up, this is the recipe for you.

Serves 1-2

Ingredients
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fine ground oats
  • a splash of cream or milk
  • a splash of stock
  • salt & pepper
  • butter
Method
Moisten the oats with some stock or crumbled stock cube in water and cream or milk. Season with salt & pepper and cook over a low heat in a small saucepan until softened.
Break the eggs into a cup or straight into the pan if it's not too hot, stir them up briefly and loosen with a little more cream if you like. Add to the saucepan with a knob of butter and cook gently, folding continually, until the eggs set.
It's scrambled eggs Jim, but not as we know it.
Tchicken Tchuesday
Tchicken Tchuesday

So I arrived in Greenock just in time for Hallowe'en and KFC's bargain bucket Tchicken Tchuesday: 9 pieces for the special low price of £6. I know it's evil, but I love it.

For the past 4 months I've been engaged in a round-Ireland odyssey of Guinness and curries, pursuing all the ingredients available in Ireland which can be curried. Mostly potatoes, if you're interested. Though it now occurs to me that I failed to try currying Guinness. Hmmm, an opportunity missed. The quest became sufficiently desperate that I even broke into my boat's collection of buckwheat groats. I have no idea why even bought those!

So although the KFC makes a welcome break from the endless round of curries, I can't say the same for the inevitable Hallowe'en pumpkin - which has made its way into at least one more curry, and may yet appear in the future!

I shall be wintering here in Greenock, or rather Harmony will - I hope to spend as little time here myself as possible, KFC offers not withstanding. Although Greenock has some impressive Victorian architecture, fine old churches, and terrific views out of Greenock across the Clyde it is blighted by the usual British urban growth - tat shops, chav-malls and ugly sprawling fucking supermarkets™.

Enjoy your endless round of curries...

Creamy Matar Paneer
Pea and Curd Cheese Curry
curry main veg
It's easy enough to make a batch of paneer, even on a boat. All you need is some old milk and a lemon.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 250 grams paneer (or cottage cheese), cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 onion, ground
  • 4 garlic cloves, ground
  • 2-3" piece ginger, ground
  • 3-4 tomatoes, skinned, finely chopped or tomato passata
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • ½ cup yoghurt or a little more
  • ½ cup cream or a little less
  • couple teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), lightly crushed
  • 1 cup green peas (fresh, frozen or tinned) (matar)
Method
Cut the paneer into cubes and grill or fry in a generous amount of oil in a non-stick pan (good luck otherwise!) until golden all over. Set aside.
Purée the onion, garlic and ginger together to a paste, adding a little water if required.
Mix the salt and ground spices with a little water to make a paste.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the cumin seeds over high heat until they release their aroma and start to pop. Add the onion past and saute gently until beginning to colour a little around the edges and the oil begins to separated. Add the spices and fry until the oil separates.
Add the skinned, chopped tomatoes or tomato passata I used passata and also first fried a spoonful of tomato paste and cook for 5-10 minutes until broken down and thickening.

In a bowl beat the yoghurt and gradually add the sauce, whisking until smooth, then return back to the pan. This might help stop the sauce from curdling. Maybe. If you like you can stick blend the sauce at this point for extra smoothness. Add the paneer, peas, dried fenugreek and a swirl of cream, and simmer gently for 5 minutes until cooked through.
Pretty good creamy paneer.

Universal Chicken and Potato Curry
curry main fowl
You can follow this base method to make either a tomato or a coconut finished curry.
In which case you'll need a really big pan.
Or you can do as I did and make one of each flavour using two normal-sized pans.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients
  • oil or ghee
  • half a head of garlic
  • a golf-ball-sized lump of ginger
  • 2 onions
  • 2 kg chicken pieces
  • 1 kg potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 aubergines, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
  • chicken stock
  • two cans of coconut milk
  • or
  • tomato purée/tomato passata/tomato juice

  • Whole Spices:
  • 6" stick of cassia (or cinnamon)
  • 8 cardamoms, split
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 tsps fenugreek seeds

  • Ground Spices:
  • 2 tsps turmeric
  • 1-2 tsps ground chilli powder
  • 2 tsps cumin powder
  • 1 tblsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp allspice powder
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1-2 tsps salt
  • wine or sherry vinegar
Method
Fry the whole spices in a very generous amount of oil or ghee until they spit and release their aroma. Add the chicken pieces and fry, skin down, in batches if necessary, until crisped. Set aside.

Chop the potatoes into largeish chunks and fry in the same oil until they take on a little colour. Add to the chicken.

Grind the ginger, garlic and onion into a paste and fry in the same oil until the harsh smell cooks off and the oil separates.
Mix the ground spices and salt with enough vinegar (or water) to make a paste. Add to the onion paste and fry until the oil separates. If using tomato purée add this next and fry a little. Add the tamarind, return the chicken and potatoes to the pot, pour in enough stock and tomato juice or passata if using to lubricate and simmer for 15 minutes.

Roughly chop the aubergines and add to the pot along with the coconut milk if using and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve, with a dressing of chopped coriander leaves if you like.
You can add dried red chillies to the whole spices, use a chilli sauce, or add green chillies towards the end to spice things up a bit.

Pumpkin and Buckwheat Curry
curry main veg
Now that I've emptied my boat of beans and porridge it's time to start on the buckwheat. BUCKWHEAT!
And it is pumpkin season.

The mango powder in this curry enhances the slight natural sourness of the buckwheat.

Serves 2

Ingredients
  • 250ml stock or water
  • 100g buckwheat groats (kasha)
  • oil or ghee
  • 1 tsp onion seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • lump of ginger, grated
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp mango powder (amchoor)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 potato, roughly chopped
  • ½ dozen curry leaves
  • ½ medium pumpkin (around 350g)
  • half a dozen prunes, quartered
  • ½ cup yoghurt
Method
Cover the buckwheat with stock or water in a small saucepan and simmer until al dente (10-15 minutes).
Set aside.
It's a nice to heat the buckwheat dry in the pan first, shaking occasionally, until they turn a little toasty.
Heat a generous amount of oil or ghee in a large pan and fry the seeds until they spit and release their aroma, add the grated ginger and fry until it loses its harshness, then add the onions. Fry until they begin to caramelise around the edges.
Add the powdered spices. Fry until they release their aroma and the oil begins to separate.
Add the potato pieces, the yoghurt, and enough stock or water to cover put on a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes soften a little. pour in any stock from the buckwheat, but likely it will have absorbed it all
Add the pumpkin pieces, curry leaves and chopped prunes. The original recipe adds a handful of frozen sweetcorn, which I'm unsure about, but anyway I didn't have any sweetcorn, but I did have prunes! Add enough water to just cover (the end result should be a dry curry), cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the buckwheat and continue simmering until the vegetables are soft.
Not bad, though it is a bit of a study in brown.

Buckwheat and Cashew Curry with Coconut Cream
curry main veg vegan
A mild oriental style curry, this is a good match for the characteristic fungal nuttiness of toasted buckwheat. The internet offers many versions like this one.

Serves 2

Ingredients
  • 75g cashews (or peanuts)
  • 100g cup buckwheat groats (kasha)
  • coconut oil, or oil, or ghee
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp palm or coconut sugar
  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sriracha optional
Method
Toast the buckwheat and the cashews:
Either spread them over a baking tray and roast for about 10 minutes at 180°C, checking and tossing until golden, or fry them over low heat in a large dry frying pan tossing frequently until they take on some colour.

In a large amount of oil or ghee, fry the grated ginger until the moisture and harsh aroma has cooked off, then add the onions and fry until glassy. Add the minced garlic, cover and sweat for a few minutes.
Uncover and stir in the powdered spices and the palm sugar. Fry carefully until the harsh aroma is cooked off and the oil begins to separate, then add the toasted buckwheat and nuts, then mix in the coconut milk, soy sauce and sriracha (to taste).
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the buckwheat is softened. Add more water if required.
It's not bad - as usual with buckwheat the result is surprisingly brown, and not terribly creamy, but brings out the mushroomy best of the groats.
Feel free to add some finely sliced kale before simmering for a bit of colour and texture.
Or serve over garlic-fried kale try adding some maple syrup too! or cabbage or broccoli.
Or do both!
CNN denounces "illiterate uppity nigger" for visiting the Big House.
See no racialism. Hear no racialism. Speak no racialism.

Over the weekend CNN lectured the American nation on how going up to the Big House and speaking on issues affecting black people was exclusively their and the Democratic Party's job and branded popular hipper hopper Kanye West an "illiterate nigger" for daring to usurp their role.

A black body and brain are the warehouse for the articulation and expression of anti-black cinnamints that have been chin-checked by people with far more rigorous credentials reasoned incoherent race-baiter Michael Eric Dyson before going on to urge the burning of crosses on white supremacist Kanye's lawn to impress upon him the error of his ways.

More food at ten...
Yorkie - It's not for Chocolate Lovers
YORKIE - IT'S NOT FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T ENJOY THE TASTE OF SHIT.

You know how chocolate is supposed to melt smoothly in your mouth? Well apparently Nestlé don't!

I remember when Yorkies were thick, rich, pleasant chocolatey bars - pretty good value for a quid.
No longer though; following Public Health England's hectoring demands that the UK's food industries reduce the pleasantness of their products by 20% it seems Nestlé have lined up eagerly like a good little collaborator and consequently their chocolate now has an unpleasantly oily taste, and a disturbingly gritty texture rather like the grainy feel of a heroin baby's excrement or anal sex. Good luck getting that image out of your head!

Public Health England's ideology is as simple as it is stupid: that if you make popular food sufficiently horrible, or sufficiently expensive, people will simply stop eating it. These people are fuckwits. The kind of dim bulb, sanctimonious authoritarians who brought prohibition to America (yep, that really worked) and the never-ending drug war to the entire western world.
Yay!

This year I've been working my way around the infinitely fractal coastline of Western Ireland and the above, I'm sad to say, is the depressing reality of grocery shopping here.
As magnificent as the landscape is, the peoplescape appears to be completely aboard the health fascism, low-fat, non-alcoholic, meat-free-gravy train.
This is Ireland for fuck's sake.
Land of milk and Guinness no more.
It's now impossible buy a bottle of wine for less than €7, their beer costs twice the price in England (and their Guinness really isn't that much better) and hunting down full-fat cream, yoghurt or meat a continual battle. Never have I been less impressed with a country's food culture: I expected to enjoy coastal village shops bursting with locally made produce only to find butchers selling only commercially produced packets of sausages or bacon identical to those in the bloody supermarkets™, greengrocers whose wares seemed to consist solely of plastic bags of potatoes, onions and over-priced cabbage, and fishmongers absolutely nowhere to be found (which given the overwhelming number of lobster pots to be avoided is simply incomprehensible).
In fact Ireland's only decent neighbourhood vendor is the bakery, which every town and village still boasts and which do in fact produce some fine local bread and cakes.
I'd blame the EU, except that I've been to France. Which really leaves no-one to blame but the Irish themselves.
What a disappointment.

In the meantime out of culinary nostalgia (and comestible necessity) I've been mostly cooking with dumplings...

Tapioca Flour Dumplings
side ingredient fish
Nope.
Just nope.
I thought I might use tapioca flour and chopped prawns to make some half-decent dumplings to go with an oriental-style chicken and sweetcorn soup.
But nope.

The dumplings come out like a cross between glue and a particularly flavourless chewing gum, though I think I made them from pure tapioca flour, with no wheat flour, which might not have helped.

Ingredients
  • tapioca flour
  • regular flour
  • water
  • fat
  • some prawns, probably chopped
Method
Look, you're not going to make this 'cos it sucks, but if you were you would mix flour and tapioca flour (up to 50/50?) with some chopped prawns, some fat (I think I used sunflower oil), and cut in enough water to make a dough, form into balls and drop in your soup. Or the bin.
Yeuch!

Chickpea Flour Dumplings
side ingredient veg
Some more dumplings you probably don't want to add to your stewed beef in milk. But they do go well with a chicken, leek and sweetcorn soup, and at least these are tastier than the tapioca dumplings.
Really tastier!

Makes about a half dozen dumplings.

Ingredients
  • 75g shredded suet
  • 100g chickpea flour
  • 50g white wheat flour
  • 2½ tsps baking powder
  • herbs, chopped (coriander is good)
  • chopped leeks or spring onions also work
  • a dash of ground allspice
  • salt & pepper
  • cold water
Method
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, then gradually dribble in cold water, cutting in with a knife, until the mixture clumps up and holds together. Form into balls with a couple of tablespoons and drop into a soup or stew. Cover and cook for 20 minutes until risen (fluffy, if you're lucky) and cooked through.
These chickpea dumplings are edible but really very dense. They might be improved by making the mixture a lot more runny, rather than as for the more usual dumpling recipe above.
Oh, and remembering to add the baking powder.
Yep, I made these again, but I didn't have any suet so I just added enough peanut oil to the dry mixture to get it to start to clump a little. I also remembered the baking powder, and used more water so the mixture was like a thick, gloopy, wallpaper paste.
The result was much better - light and fluffy dumplings.
So there!

Milk Braised Beef Casserole
main meat stew crockpot
I've had a go at stewing beef in milk before, with sickening results, so I thought I'd just keep going.
After all, it does seem like the height of gastronomic irony - cooking a cow in its own juice.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 2 tblsps flour
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • olive oil for frying
  • 2 lb/1kg stewing beef of some kind
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 8 oz/250g mushrooms I used chestnut
  • 1 stick cassia
  • 2 pints/1 litre milk
  • 1½ tblsps flour
  • 1½ tblsps butter
  • mustard
  • salt & pepper
Method
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark ½/120°C.
Cut the beef into 1½" cubes, put in a plastic bag with a couple of tablespoons of seasoned flour and mustard powder. Shake to coat, heat olive oil in a frying pan and brown the pieces in batches decanting to a casserole dish as you go.

Refresh the olive oil in the frying pan, fry the cassia bark until it sizzles, thinly slice an onion and fry until soft, but not too browned. Add everything to the casserole.
Clean and thickly slice the mushrooms and fry, in batches if necessary, in the freshly (and generously) oiled frying pan until golden.
Add to the casserole dish.

Fry about 2 tblsps flour in the same volume of butter in a small pan (though you can re-use the frying pan) until it smells biscuity. Gradually add the milk, whisking, to make a thin white sauce. Whisk in the meat juices from the casserole dish too. Season and add a teaspoon or two of mustard to taste (as you like), then pour into the casserole dish to cover the meat.

Cover and cook in a very low oven for 2 hours, then uncovered for another hour.

Serve with mashed potatoes or pasta, and a nice cavolo nero. Or possibly a different cavolo nero
OK, so waaaay better than my first attempt - at least the white sauce didn't curdle up the way the milk on its own did, and became actually quite delicious.
But still the beef was a little on the tough side, it would have been better cooked for longer, or a perhaps using a more tender cut of steak?
I'd have added some potato too, but the casserole was too small. It might have worked.
Though you technically can add dumplings to this stew, I wouldn't. They don't really go.

Cavolo Nero with Onion Seeds
veg vegan side
A vaguely Indian-inspired side dish that goes with any kind of British food.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 300g cavolo nero kale, stalks removed, sliced
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 tsps onion seeds (nigella)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • salt
Method
Heat olive oil in a large pan and fry about 3 tsps onion seeds until they sizzle and release their odour. Add a thinly sliced onion and fry until just starting to soften. Cut any thick stalks away from the kale, slice, and add to the pan. Keep moving while the kale fries and collapses, then cook gently until tender (you may need to cover).
Season and serve.
Eating for Easter
Rowan IV and Harmony berthed at Fleetwood

It's that time of the year when we religiously gobble the lamb of God in celebration of his sacrifice. And who am I to offend against tradition.
So I bought a leg of lamb (on offer at my Local Fucking Supermarket™) to share with two other lonely skippers from neighbouring boats (that's one of the lonely skippers lovely wooden boats above).
The other dishes were somewhat ad-hoc from the stuff I had aboard that needed eating. I got rid of some more boat beans, threw a few wilting celery stalks in with the cauliflower, and flavoured a bag of rapidly softening carrots with dried apricots leftover from a nice roast pork I once cooked for Kurt.
The meal was at least tasty enough to make one of those lonely skipper's absent girlfriend jealous. So that's a bonus :)


I recently spent some painful time listening to Sam Harris attempt a conversation with Ezra Klein on one of Sam's podcasts
(Published April 9th, 2018).

A quick bit of background - Sam previously recorded a podcast with controversial political scientist Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, to discuss the current state of the science of IQ, how this reflects on claims made in the Bell Curve and how Murray became a social pariah.
It's quite good and worth a listen.

Subsequent to that, a series of articles on Vox by the usual ratbag of disgruntled, race-baiting psychologists outraged at finding someone who disagrees with them given (moderately) respectable air time. They (re-)accused Murray of peddling junk science and even went so far as to pen the hilariously un-self-aware passage We are absolute supporters of free speech in general and an open marketplace of ideas on campus in particular, but...!
You can guess the rest.

After some behind the scenes tom-twittery it seems Ezra felt the need to pen his own long and rambling diatribe on the topic in which he mostly seems to be complaining that the entire history of slavery and oppression, ancient to modern, was given insufficient prominence in the podcast about IQ.

And so Sam and Ezra get to air their differences together.
Now just to be clear I happen to think that Sam Harris is a generally thin-skinned, insufferable, tedious and dogmatic windbag who is nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is, and find his pathological inability to make a simple point succinctly bores the pants of me very quickly. But I was generally predisposed to his defence in this discussion having myself read The Bell Curve and found nothing racially offensive in it.

A quick partisan summary of the final round then;
Sam Harris repeatedly attempts to make the point that it ought to be possible to talk about the science and data of IQ independently of the personality, personal politics or the social policies which Charles Murray might or might not espouse consequent to them.
Ezra Klein continually deflects this assertion with demands that any discussion touching or involving race should be accompanied by an obligatory lecture in the entire history of slavery, ancient to modern.

After hearing them verbally circling and talking past each other for two hours I felt compelled to conjure forth my intellectual tuppence in the form of two mild caricatures of Sam and Ezra called Saul and Esau:

Someone like Saul sees a black person and thinks Oh look, a human being. Let's go and bore the shit out of them.
Someone like Esau sees a black person and thinks Oh look, a victim of discrimination, slavery and oppression. Let's go and support the shit out of them.

Saul thinks that he's not a racist because he doesn't imbue every individual black person he meets with the racial characteristics that may be ascribed to their group.
Saul thinks that Esau is probably a racist because Esau is predominantly concerned with the racial group identity of every individual he meets.
(We could note here that one of the things Ezra did in preparation for his discussion with Sam was to obsessively count the number of black people Sam has guested on his podcasts.)

Esau thinks that he's not a racist because he sees the deep injustice and racism inherent in the world, and thus each black person as he truly is - victimised and oppressed.
I suspect that Esau regards Saul as being the next best thing to a racist.
Esau thinks that Saul is a racism-denier because Saul denies an assumed victimhood of individual black people.
For Esau, denying or failing to place The Black People™'s oppressive racial inheritance at the centre of any black person' identity is a borderline racist act.
(Although Ezra does deny that he considers Sam to be a racist, at one point in the podcast he also condemns Sam for being an anti-anti-racist. [59:42].)

Saul thinks that Esau is an identitarian because Esau only views a black person as a member of The Black People™ tribe. Not as an individual.
Esau does not really see a black person separately from his membership of The Black People™, because for him every black person is a personal embodiment of the entire history of the racial oppression of The Black People™.

Esau genuinely sees the world through this racialist microscope. He simply experiences existence as one seeped in racism. Infused with racism. Racism is the inescapable and inseparable reality of his universe.
In the words of living feminist trope Anita Sarkeesian
... when you start learning about systems, everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time.
and in Ezra's own words:
You [Sam Harris] see, you know, on my part a social justice warrior tribalism of some sort or another someone who is, you know, looking for evidence of racism and bigotry. I look at our society and I see a society that even now on every study we basically run shows huge, huge, huge racial bias. [2:04:15]
Esau doesn't see himself as indulging in social justice warriorhood because for him he isn't imposing his racialist interpretation onto the world. The world simply is racist. Therefore for Esau this means that anyone who doesn't see this truth is a deluded, self-deceiving denier of reality. And probably a racist white supremacist to boot.
For Esau it is Saul who is the tribalist, because it is Saul who belongs to a group bent on twisting and denying reality. And more than that, he doesn't regard not seeing the racism in everything as a legitimate standpoint.

I suspect that Ezra really doesn't understand Sam's term identity politics, because for him the identity of an individual genuinely isn't separable from their existence as a member of a group. He thinks that Sam must be himself playing identity politics, or being tribalist because it is obvious to him that Sam belongs to the tribe of The White People™ and for him that naturally defines Sam's identity. Indeed, at one point in the podcast he characterises Sam's own identity politics as coming from one of Sam's internal identities. As though he understands the term identity politics to refer to the policies of an internal identity to which one feels one belongs, not the act of imposing on others the identity to which one feels they ought to belong.

I was recently reminded of a revealing (and hilarious) 2017 video by Ami Horowitz supposedly reporting on a White Privilege Conference in Kansas City, Missouri in which the attendees he interviews enthusiastically agree that it is wrong to judge people collectively whilst simultaneously, and entirely un-ironically stating on camera that ... it is fair to say that all white people are racist.
This sounds like laughable cognitive dissonance to many, including me, but I think that for the truly wokeit isn't.
They are genuinely not able to separate their beliefs about groups from their beliefs about the nature of individuals.
To the woke identitarian the fact that white people are racist isn't a fact about their group at all. It's simply a statement about the nature of every white person, a statement about the nature of their existence.

And so to the podcast's charged question of the genetic, or at least inheritable, component of the IQ of identifiable groups. Say the IQ of black Americans, or the IQ of white Americans:
For Sam the question of to what extent IQ is genetic, or biologically inheritable is an empirical question that could in principle be investigated and determined independently from the question of the mechanisms by which past and ongoing racism might affect modern day group IQ.
The heritability (or not) of IQ is a different issue than the environmental, or even potential biological, effects of racism on IQ.

For Ezra I think these issues are actually inseparable. For Ezra it isn't possible to, as Sam describes it, honestly discuss data[12:15]
I'm unsure whether he thinks that this is simply impossible on a purely practical level - due to the counfounding effects of multi-generational slavery, segregation and discrimination on any study, or whether he thinks that there is something intrinsically, theoretically, impossible about separating these issues - making the very question meaningless?
I'm inclined to the latter given Ezra's avoidance of directly answering Sam's question on this point, and his repeated insistence on detouring his responses back into a discussion of the entire history of slavery.

Considering Ezra's statement that
I doubt that we have, given the experiment that we have run in this country, given the centuries of slavery and segregation and oppression ... violence ... terror ... trauma .. I absolutely doubt, I truly to the core of my being doubt, that we are at a place where any of us should have confidence saying that the differences we see in individuals now, reflect intrinsic group capacity [1:30:45]
I'm tempted to suppose that what is going through Ezra's mind here is a conviction that the history of oppression of The Black People™ has somehow intruded itself into their very DNA. Their very genetic identity. That racist victimisation has actually become a part of their being at the very deepest level, and that that being black is now inseparable, even biologically, from having been oppressed. For someone who believes this to be true, it is obviously not possible to even discuss the IQ of The Black People™ without considering their oppressive history.
It really isn't possible to honestly discuss data.

So finally, where do we go from here?
Sam thought he and Ezra could just discuss these issues like people who see and interpret the world in a fundamentally common way. But of course they don't. Like any meeting of a rationalist and a religionist their talking happened on completely separate planes of reality.
Just as it is impossible to convert a religious believer by logical argument, so it is impossible to rationalise an idealogue from their ideation. They do not see the world in those terms.
As a rationalist it's tempting to assume you must only demonstrate to an idealogue a few internal logical inconsistencies in their idealogical framework and they will recognise their defeat and renounce their faith. But it simply doesn't work that way, because to an idealogue, two rationally inconsistent beliefs can both be simultaneously true.
  • It is possible to believe that we must, in the words of Hilary Clinton, listen to The Black People™ talk while simultaneously silencing every black person who's world view doesn't concur with yours.
  • It is possible to believe that the word of God instructs us to take an eye for an eye while simultaneously averring that we should turn the other cheek.
  • It is possible to believe that being skin-colour-blind is a form of racism.
  • It is possible to believe that one shouldn't judge people collectively while simultaneously believing that all white people are racist.
  • It is possible for facts to be racist.

Now I've heard Sam Harris expressing his opinion that there is in actuality something factually superior about the rational view of the world, which leads him to think that he can rationally demonstrate this to the unbeliever. Or rather, the believer. But I'm inclined to agree with Jordan Peterson on this.
It's not clear that rationalism is empirically superior to religiosity or identitarianism. They are all coherent and effective views of the world on their own terms, none of which make any sense to any other.
The only empiricism is in the differing real-world outcomes and consequences of these different world views.

And I have no idea where we go from there :(

Time for some chicken risotto.
Cooking With Kurt
A Bit of Snow

Since Christmas I've been living at my brother's place waiting for the bit of snow to melt (who really enjoys having me around and doesn't find it a burden in any way at all) and so I've been doing a lot of cooking for him, and we've even done some cooking together.
I made a surprisingly decent giant Beef Wellington out of an old boot a Local Fucking Supermarket™ rolled roasting joint.

Kurt introduced me to a surprisingly easy way of cooking an oriental-style chicken, probably because he was sick to death of my black bean sauce. During the continuing assault on my onboard bean collection before Christmas I attacked my bag of salted beans and turned out a giant batch of black bean sauce (a few salted beans go a long way). I brought it with me from the boat when I moved in and we've been eating it in various ways ever since :)

Due to our determination to have a very bloody mary Christmas we've also had a gallon of tomato juice to use up. I've bent some of the inevitable slew of post-Christmas curries I've been cooking, like this chicken makhani, to that end, as well as a rather tasty, if massive, traditional suet pudding.

Becky gave me a lovely whale plate for Christmas - it's not as big as a whale, but it's got a big smiley whale face and great edges for keeping food aboard during tossy storms. Kurt filled it for me with roast lamb, Mum's suet pudding and all the roast trimmings.

I used up the last of my frozen Haggii (2015 vintage) on a Burns Supper for Diane and Steve - some local English types.
Steve and I made a concerted effort to clear out my old whiskies in honour of the bard. Kurt's kids were surprisingly happy eating the haggis itself (it probably helped that we told them it was just made of minced lamb), bravely attempted the neeps (mashed with some fried ginger, cointreau and some carrots) but bizarrely baulked at the tatties!
Baked tatties mashed with roast garlic, cream and butter. What's not to like?
Weirdos!



Such A Goose
Christmas Presents

Finally after all that marmalading, baking and tuiling, Christmas is HERE!
The presents are unwrapped, the stockings are emptied, the liquor miniatures therein have been imbibed, the kids are drunk, and the goose is cooking.

Flora joined us again this year thus making this an unbreakable Christmas tradition (too late now Flora - you can never escape us) and bringing her usual cheesy board, plus some groovy bloody mary vodkas, novelty Christmas recipe ideas, and a surprise collection of leftovers from her school's Christmas party. Kurt and the kids found the oysters particularly challenging. But I enjoyed them - thanks Flora!

Cheeses by Flora:
  • Morbier, famously Comté-like cheese with an ash layer in the middle
  • Rachel - a goats cheese from Somerset. Apparently named after a Rachel who was sweet, curvy and slightly nutty.
      Well Rachel, two out of three ain't bad, right??
  • Moliterno - a raw sheep's milk Pecorino from Sardinia, infused with black truffle after aging
  • Murcia al vino (Murcian wine cheese) - a raw goats milk cheese from Murcia in Spain; washed in red wine during maturation
  • Apres Soleil - an extremely rich and pleasant hard cows milk cheese matured in Swiss caves where they are regularly bathed in sunlight.
As usual I contributed unnecessary extra cheeses of my own to ensure at least some of them would begin mouldering before we could finally finish them off well into January. They sort of fell into my bag while I was shopping for goats cheese at Bradford's only, but quite excellent, delicatessen; Roswithas. Yep, Bradford is an actual cultural desert.

Cheeses by Karl:
  • Smelly Ha'peth - a soft blue cow's milk cheese from The Saddleworth Cheese Company in Lancashire, although tarred on its own website with the appelation artisan it's actually not a bad cheese. From a Coronation Street actor anyway.
  • and of course, a slab of Gorgonzola
  • Old Amsterdam - a Dutch (as far as I can tell) gouda (though not actually made in Gouda) matured for two years, packed with naturally developed salt crystals and a personal favourite of mine.
Other than some tension concerning just how much cleaning the fridge handles really require in the middle of dessert, the dinner went swimmingly, despite:
Stuff we (re-)learned this year:
  • We made our usual mistake of trying to time the goose to be cooked at serving time.
    We should have allowed an hour resting time (such a large goose will still retain plenty of heat wrapped in foil), meaning we could organise the veg and roasties in the final hour to be perfectly cooked, as opposed to somewhat crispy in our case.
    Since our 6kg goose took slightly over 5 hours at Gas Mark 3 we should have started it 6 hours before planning to serve.
  • No-one likes soggy tuiles starters.
  • Good things to do with the inevitable leftover Christmas pud:
    • Fry with savouries like bacon, black pudding or mushrooms
    • Fry and combine with some of that excess Christmas cheese (Smelly Ha'peth is nice)
Happy Goose guzzling y'all.


Tuiles Stuffed with Goat's Cheese Fondant and Red Onion Marmalade
starter veg
Are these rolled wafer cigars tuiles or is the term tuile reserved for those pringle-shapes? You decide!

I pulled the tuile recipe from Mary Berry (though I'm only making her cigar-shapes here, and just using a half-quantity of the recipe below), the idea for the filling from the fabulous Market Bistro in King's Lynn, and the proportions for goats cheese fondant from Adam Talbot. (Be sure to use a soft but fairly strong cheese.)
Little did I guess how much trouble it would be to reproduce as a Christmas dinner appetiser.

For starters (ahem!) I couldn't find a tuile template so I artfully cut my own from a silicon muffin tray but I suspect the real deal would have been considerably thinner, making it very difficult to crisp up my fat discs. This meant I had to spend far too much time practicing getting the cooking time and temperatures right. Perhaps I should have tried cutting down the lid of one of those plastic sweetie tubs?

Secondly, even after turning out a half-dozen acceptably crispy tuiles, once you stuff them with a vaguely moist filling they quickly soften. So they would have needed stuffing almost immediately before being served - not a practical Christmas plan at all then.

To cut a long story short, no one was impressed. Damn soggyphobes.

The tuile paste should make about 20 cigars or tuiles

Ingredients
  • red onion marmalade (other versions are available)

  • For the Tuiles:
  • 200g/7oz butter, softened
  • 175g/6oz icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 large free-range eggs, whites only, lightly beaten
  • 200g/7oz plain flour

  • For the Goats Cheese Fondant:
  • 500g goats cheese (rind trimmed)
  • 50ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
Method
To make the tuiles mixture:
Use a hand-held electric mixer to mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a paste.
Gradually add the egg whites, whisking all the time.
Fold in the flour a little at a time beating with a wooden spoon between each addition.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

To bake the tuiles, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
Line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone sheet and place the tuile template in position.
Spread some of the plain tuile paste over the cut out shapes of the template using a palette knife.
Draw the blade across the template to remove any surplus paste. Remove the template by peeling away from the tray, leaving you with paste shapes on the baking tray.
You should be able to make about 20 discs though rectangles can make better cigars (from the full ingredients list above).

Bake for 5-6 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Remove from the oven and, working very quickly, bend the warm tuiles around wooden spoon handles to make cigar shapes.
You might need to experiment, as I did, with exact oven temperature and cooking times to get the tuiles an all-over golden colour so they crisp once cooled. It could take quite a few sacrificial tuiles to get right, though perhaps it might not be so challenging if the tuiles are rolled thin enough.
I needed to cook them for quite a lot longer at a lower temperature to get them to crisp through without burning at the edges.

If the cooked tuiles start to harden before you have chance to shape them all, return them to the oven for 30 seconds to one minute to soften. They should keep crispy for a day in an airtight container.

To make the goats cheese fondant:
Place the gelatine leaves in cold water for 3 minutes until soft. Meanwhile, warm the milk on the stove and dissolve the soaked gelatine in the warm milk. Place the goat’s cheese, cream and milk mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth.
The mixture will set in the fridge in about 3 hours.

To Serve:
Fill one end of each crisp you wish! tube with fondant using a small spoon. Turn over, push a dollop of red onion marmalade into the centre of the tube, then close the end with more fondant.
Serve immediately.
To pack the fondant into my wafer cigars I had to first fluff the chilled fondant with a fork to loosen it.
If you just want to present the fondant in particular shapes you could use an ice cream scoop to get nice balls, or you could chill the mixture rolled in cling film to produce cylinders.


Advent
Blackpool Sea Front

Finally safely harboured in Fleetwood marina near Blackpool for the winter. Don't ask me about Liverpool. Just don't.

Blackpool in mid (or early) winter is a bleak place, though probably no less tacky than it would be in summer.
The famous tower still dominates the landscape and would probably be great to visit if it wasn't so freakishly expensive, and their shoreline tram system is very efficient for getting in and out, particularly since it runs right out to the marina. Plus they run fabulous old heritage trams along the central section which are great entertainment.
At this time of year you can also still find remnants of the celebrated annual Blackpool illuminations. That you just missed. Anything related to Doctor Who clearly being the best.

It's obvious that the seafront has been heavily invested in recent times and is littered with uplifting sculptures and quirky landscaping though I can't help wondering if that money could not have been better spent on infrastructure or the local architecture which is mostly still quite brutalist and feels very run-down (Coral Island excepted). Mind you, I did discover there the best advent calendar in the world from Thorntons - with a delicious individual continental truffle for each day of Advent. So it's not all doom and gloom.
It's the true meaning of Christmas folks - yumsk!
Take note Thorntons - any sponsorship is gratefully received.

I spent a few days onboard practicing making Christmas tuiles, and using up more of my boat's barley supplies (see below), but then decamped to my brother's place in Bradford for the rest of the Christmas period. Handy for a helping hand with making up our Christmas red onion marmalade from the kiddies and getting all the Christmas baking done in a real oven. Sheer luxury.



I also felt the need to get a hair cut. First one of the year! Brrrrrr.


Barley with Peas and Mushrooms
veg side
I've been struggling to get through the surprising amount of barley I've accumulated on my boat.
Here's something I did with a cup of it. Like most barley dishes a little goes a long way.
Also, I've noticed that overcooked barley starts to take on an oddly bitter edge, so serve as soon as the grains have softened.

Serves 2-4

Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • a dozen button mushrooms, quartered
  • two handfuls of pea pods, podded
  • half an onion, quartered and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 500ml stock
Method
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and sweat the mushrooms until they begin to lose water, add the podded peas and set aside.
Heat another tablespoon of butter and sweat the onions, then add the garlic, cook until they are on the edge of colouring.
Add the barley, cover with stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the stock is absorbed.
Add the mushrooms.
Season.
Dress with a little extra butter and stir through.
Meh, s'OK.

Savoy Cabbage with Truffled Cheese
veg side
I was inspired to try making this by King's Lynn's Market Bistro, a true jewel of a restaurant. Richard and Lucy Golding's bistro is small but their food is remarkably thorough - well worth a visit if you're sailing by :)

If you're lucky enough to have some truffled cheese, you should use it to make this dish. If not you can finely grate some truffle into ordinary cheese. Or if, like me, you have some good truffle oil on hand you can use that, but don't skimp on it, in quality or quantity - it completely makes the dish!

Forget the truffle flavoured oil you'll find at your Local Fucking Supermarket™, which contains no truffle. It's chemically flavoured with such ersatz organosulfur compounds as 2,4-dithiapentane.
If you don't want to make your own truffle oil (or truffle your own cheese) you could try Truffle Hunter's White Truffle Oil which does at least have the benefit of containing some actual truffle. And tastes pretty authentic too.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • ½ a savoy or spring cabbage.
  • 300g cheese, grated it needs to be well-flavoured and meltable - a strong cheddar, gruyère, emmental possibly
  • 1-2 tablespoons truffle oil that's good truffle oil - nothing produced by your Local Fucking Supermarket™
Method
Halve the cabbage and cut out the stalky parts. Discard the other half. Though I suppose you could use it in another dish :)
Blanche for 1-2 minutes then drain.
Put into an ovenproof dish and slide under the grill until the outer leaves begin to char.
Drizzle with truffle oil, cover with the grated cheese and drizzle with a little more truffle oil.
Return to the grill until the cheese is nicely melted and beginning to brown at the edges.
Serve.
I'm not sure what the best way to cook the cabbage will be for this dish - I par-boiled mine as above, then I tried baking at 200°C for 20 minutes to dry it out, but it didn't seem to be on the point of crisping enough to melt cheese, so then I put it under the grill instead. I must say it was excellent, if a little watery at the bottom, but I think you could skip the roasting step and go straight for the grilling. I'm not even sure the blanching is required; perhaps you could grill it the whole way?
Maybe I'll try it again and find out.

Chorizo, Cabbage, Beans and Barley Stew
meat main
Another step in the process of cleansing my boat of barley. Hurrah!

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 2 tsps mixed peppercorns and allspice, ground
  • 2 leeks, green parts sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • a few inches of chorizo
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsps tomato purée
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cups of ale/beer
  • ½ cup barley
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • ½ savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon brined green peppercorns or capers optional
  • 1 tsp salt
Method
Slice the leeks into rounds, wash and drain if necessary, fry gently in a generous amount of olive oil until they begin to collapse.
Add a couple of teaspoons of crushed mixed peppercorns and allspice.
Peel the carrots, halve or quarter and slice. Add to the pan and fry a little.
Remove the chorizo skin, halve or quarter and slice. Add to the pan.
Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Add to the pan.
Add the tomato purée and fry gently to remove any bitterness.
Add the beer, barley, drained kidney beans, de-seeded and roughly chopped green pepper, bay leaves, a teaspoon of salt and bring to a simmer.
Throw in some green peppercorns or capers if you like.
Add the shredded savoy cabbage and cook until the barley softens and the cabbage is cooked.
I thought this was going to be severely under-flavoured but it's actually a surprisingly tasty stew.

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Chorizo and Dolcelatte
pasta meat main
An ideal one-pot boat dish.

Serves 1

Ingredients
  • 4 oz pasta I used fusilli
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2" chorizo, peeled, diced
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, chopped
  • 1 hunk dolcelatte, crumbled
  • 1 tsp capers or green peppercorns in brine if you have any
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
Method
Boil the pasta until al dente in a small saucepan, drain and set aside.
Return the pan to the hob and heat a tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil then sweat the sliced garlic and chopped chorizo.
Add the capers or green peppercorns if you have any!, sund-dried tomatoes, dolcelatte, and sour cream.
Stir, warming until the dolcelatte begins to melt into the sauce.
Remove from the heat, stir in the mayonnaise and the pasta.
Serve.
Most excellent. Quick, easy and just taste those calories!

Beans with Chocolate and Truffle Oil
veg vegan side
Bloody hell, you find quite a few recipes for white beans with truffle oil, but it actually looks like I might have invented this.
Go me!

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried beans I used borlotti. I'm sure any dried beans or lentils would work but I think dark, earthy beans will be better.
  • stock I used an Oxo cube. So sue me!
  • pinch of salt
  • a generous grating of 100% cacao chocolate I used some of Willie's Cacao Venezuelan Black..
  • a splash of truffle oil
  • couple of tbsps crème fraîche
Method
Soak the beans overnight. Drain.
Cover with stock or water with an Oxo cube in it!, add salt to taste, bring to the boil and simmer covered for half to one hour until the beans are soft, then uncover and boil until they are almost dry.
Crush roughly using a potato masher, mix in the grated bitter chocolate, stir through a drizzle of quality truffle oil and serve with a spoon of sour cream.
Really good! Excellent balance of flavours, so good in fact that I just ate them on their own, but I think they'd go well with most meats or fowl.
I can now attest that these crushed beans do go well with fried pork chops, with a creamy mushroom sauce.

Stuffed Flank Steak
main meat
You might use large thin slices of skirt for this recipe (skirt is actually cut from the cow's diaphragm muscle).
Have your butcher thinly slice your flank steak from his giant hunk of flank. I'm a great fan of doing my meat cutting myself, but unless you have a hefty steak to cut into it's very difficult to get sufficiently even and thin slices for yourself. If your butcher doesn't have a hunk of flank find yourself another butcher.

The original Chunky Chef recipe slices up the rolled steak log into short segments (having first strategically tied loops of string around the log), then secures each of these pinwheels with a soaked cocktail stick. She then sears these rolls for 2-3 minutes top and bottom in a cast-iron griddle before roasting them at 350°F for about 10 minutes.
She also uses a mixture of parsley, sage and basil, which sounds quite weird to me.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 large, thin, flank steak about ⅓lb
  • half a dozen cloves of garlic
  • half an onion or a few shallots
  • olive oil
  • a bunch of parsley or other herbs
  • slices of prosciutto
  • salt & pepper
Method
Using a small blender or stick blender, purée the onion (or shallot), garlic and parsley other herbs are also available with enough olive oil to lubricate. Or you could just finely mince the whole lot.
Season with salt and pepper.
Place the steak in between two larger pieces of cling film and bash the hell out of it with a mallet or a rolling pin. Leaving a border at the edges, generously smear the steak with the onion purée (save any leftovers for your minty mung beans. Cover the herb mixture with overlapping paper-thin slices of prosciutto I used Serrano ham. Cover the ham with overlapping, thin, slices of provolone or other melty cheese I used Maasdam. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6, heat an oiled oven tray one with at least a small lip there will be juices. Roll up the steak into a log, arranged so that the meat grain will run along the length of the log. Tie the roll up with loops of string, if it doesn't look as if it will hold together as it is mine was fine, season the outside and dress with a little olive oil, lay on the oven tray seam-side down and roast for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and cooked through. Leave to rest tented in tin foil for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving with a balsamic glaze.
Very good use of flank steak, which can be a bit on the dry side.

Balsamic Glaze
veg vegan sauce
As might be used to glaze a stuffed flank steak.

Makes about a cup

Ingredients
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp butter optional
Method
Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil, stir until the sugar dissolves (adjust the sugar to (careful!) taste), and simmer until the glaze thickens and is reduced by about half.
Stir in a tablespoon of butter too, if you like.
Drizzle over your meat of choice. Or salmon. Or blue cheese. It goes well with blue cheese, like a rich gastrique. Or vegetables - it would probably go with vegetables too.

Minty Mung Beans
veg vegan side
Goes pretty well with a stuffed flank steak!

Ingredients
  • mung beans
  • garlic
  • shallots or onions
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • fresh mint or mint concentrate
Method
Cover the mung beans, bring them to the boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes until soft. No need to soak.
Blend the chopped shallot (or onion), garlic and parsley with enough olive oil to make a paste.
Boil off any excess water, stir in the shallot mixture and cook a little more.
Stir in the mint or mint concentrate (mint in vinegar) and serve.
Pretty good beans. I added the herb mixture because it was left over from the accompanying stuffed flank steak, but it seemed like a fortuitous addition.
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