31 December 2009

bike cave £35

seems like the answer to all our problems doesn't it
we want new bikes, as hiking isn't ideal this time of year
- but we have nowhere to store them safely.

So for £35 at Amazon you can buy the Bike Cave, delivery next day. Then, all you have to buy is:

  • paint on waterproofing from Millets as it's porous, and drips in damp conditions.
  • tarpaulin covers from a hardware store, as it leaks in the rain.
  • concrete slabs from B&Q, as it will blow away in spite of its pins, it's so lightweight.
  • decking board underneath and top to prevent the soft material damaging and tearing.
  • wall anchor to lock your bikes onto

for an additional £75

Our bikes are hybrid Trek with winter tyres on them at the moment, light enough to carry over to Europe on the train, and practical enough to cycle round town

29 December 2009

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 2 beef dinner

My eyes were like saucers watching the TV show where Hugh cooked his brisket and sirloin roasts for his staff Christmas dinner at the River Cottage Canteen

No more indecisive discussions needed about the best goose we've had, but turkey's so good for leftovers, but something completely different for our Christmas meal this year perhaps
& we don't eat so much beef or roasts, so Hugh's 2 beefs it was to be.

Easy cooking too, no prep - but it takes a little planning

And it was wonderful.
Chefs are right about the brisket being first choice, but the sirloin served along side complements the both.
Keep it simple, don't load the plate, and you have a Christmas recipe to cook year after year to compete with the best

Thanks Hugh!
seared on high for 30mins

turned down, a little stock to the pan to pick up juices, & add the shallots

cook for 5 hours, and rest

keep those juices for the richest thin sauce

cook your sirloin

green veg on, horseradish yorkshires in

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's canteen 2 roast beef dinner

27 December 2009

who's going to see the Queen on Christmas Day!

starts with my turning on the Christmas lights

and our salmon, scrambled egg and champagne breakfast

a bit of exercise as we walk down to the open air Lido to watch the swimmers dive in pink and come out blue

and walking back we see a song thrush (see arrow): it's a good omen, no?

I cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's excellent brisket for 5 hours - just look at those juices!

the recipe is for 2 beefs, so it's served with his medium done (should be rare but I rested it for too long) sirloin, grated horseradish yorkshires, sprouts and goose fat potatoes

followed by Hugh's excellent pear and almond cake

then we settle down at 8pm to open our gifts, I only dropped the one hint for these, honest

the Dos Hermanos recommended the Spanish cook book in their blog recently

and then to watch a French film Le scaphandre et le papillon, not one to cheer you up now, but it's jolly good

I hope your celebrations were as relaxed and steady as ours

23 December 2009

sage and pine nut sauce: for pork

This I make regularly, after I saw Gino d'ACampo make it. I've not had a recipe dud yet from him so am a fan of his food, but how the man eats Italian ice cream with those whitened teeth beats me, he must hit the roof with the sensitivity.

It goes tremendously well with parma ham wrapped chicken, & lifts slow roast pork

Here, it's served with very slow roast juicy pork in cider, and the apple tang comes through nicely, in spite of the power of the sage

ingredients for the sauce

100g pine nuts
2 good handfuls of fresh sage, chopped
a glass dry white wine
double cream

gently toast the pine nuts in a pan

add the wine and the sage, and reduce by half
cool, blitz

then warm through when needed

and add double cream

serve with pork and oven potatoes

21 December 2009

tea smoked chicken

with my chinese style plum sauce

I'm still in 2 minds about this process, I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, but felt as though I'd just drawn in a couple of blends, after having eaten this dish.
It's aromatic, smokey, but bordering on overpowering.

So .......... yesterday I thought I'd give tea smoked a whirl - I've seen this cooked so many times on the TV, but have never really been much interested -
by first poaching the chicken breast for 20 mins in star anise, chinese tea, sechuan pepper and .... nope, no and, that was it.

I then set up my all purpose pot from Catalunya with a foil packed smoking cocktail of 4 tablesp chinese tea, powdered rice (the cheapest packet on the shelf for a non-rice eater), star anise, sechuan pepper, a couple of garlic cloves and peppercorns

smoked for 20 mins

and served with the plum sauce.

I've had to throw my bamboo steamer away as it has welded itself to the smoking "tar".

17 December 2009

oriental style dark plum sauce

After trawling the internet for recipes, I thought I'd have a go at making the Chinese dark plum sauce you have with crispy aromatic duck, to use up the plums that have been sitting on my kitchen side for a week

A hybrid of several ideas on the web, this is what I've come up with, and it's pretty much the taste you get in restaurants

Why not have an experiment to recreate this fine sauce!


muslin wrap of 2 star anise, 1 teasp ground sichuan pepper, 1/2 teasp dried red chillies
I didn't have, but would have added fresh ginger and 5 spice
1/2 teasp sea salt
300 mil rice vinegar, plus the juice of one orange
1 garlic clove
about 1 cup Chinese dark soy sauce
about 3 tablesp muscovado sugar
some honey
1 level teasp arrowroot

20 fresh plums

bring the vinegar to boil with the salt and the halved plums, add the muslin mix and simmer for 30 mins
remove the bag and press through a chinoise
place the puree in another pan, add the arrowroot, a good load of soy sauce & some sugar with a little honey to taste, whisk well and heat the sauce mix
add more soy, more sugar, more soy, sugar - honey ................. reducing until you have a thick dark plum sauce balancing the taste just as you expect

not too salty, not to vinegary nor too sweet.

cool and bottle in sterilized jars.

7 December 2009

chilli & cheesy straws

making do with what you've got in.

I've run out of eggs, and only have pecorino and lancashire cheese
and soya milk,

that'll do.

100g butter
225g plain flour
1/4 teasp sea salt
either 1/4 teasp baking powder or the yolk of one egg
100g cheeses - gruyere's great if you have it
2 - 3 tablesp soya milk

chilli powder

- process all the ingredients, save the chilli powder, to a wet crumb

- or rub the flour, baking soda, butter together, and stir in the remaining ingredients, save the chilli.

press quickly to form a soft ball, and rest for 15 minutes covered in cling film.
heat the oven to 200
flour your dough well, and roll out to half an inch thick

sprinkle with the chilli powder and slice into sticks
& bake on a teflon mat for 15 minutes .......... then cool them on a rack

4 December 2009

Dundee Cake - by Dan Lepard

This really is a beautifully perfect Dundee cake recipe. & made more so by a shared bake-along via the Guardian word of mouth

We had people from all over the world ready for the off at 3pm Sunday, perched eagerly at their keyboards, waiting for the first word from Dan as to what to do with our ingredients

& whilst we mixed and added, we maintained a warm flow of conversation via the comments function provided by the Guardian site.

list of ingredients needed

175g unsalted butter, softened, or dairy-free margarine - soft
100g caster sugar, plus extra for the top (Dan's uses 150g)

Finely grated zest of an orange
250g plain flour or gluten-free flour mix
3 large eggs, or egg replacer

100g marmalade or apricot preserve

100g ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts

375g mixed dried fruit - be creative if you like
200g glacé peel or cherries - less if you prefer - I used dried soft cranberries
1 tsp baking powder

100g blanched almonds for the top

for a 20cm springform tin, lined well with baking parchment
  1. with a balloon whisk or beaters, whip together your butter and sugar
  2. stir in the orange zest & approx a third of the flour, then whisk it well
  3. add the eggs one at a time, and beat them in - they're a bit slippery slimy but do come together
  4. beat in that marmalade
  5. & the ground almonds only
  6. in with the remaining flour and baking powder and whisk
  7. stir in your chosen fruits so they are well and evenly incorporated into the mix
  8. turn on your oven to 150 fan, 170 ordinary oven (gas 3 apparently)
  9. spoon your mix into the springform tin, and smooth the top nicely
  10. cover the top with a scrunched piece of foil to create steam for the cake
  11. and bake for 45mins
  12. meanwhile, blanch your whole almonds for 15 minutes in a bowl of boiling kettle water
  13. drain and dry - this prevents their burning
  14. after 45 mins, take your cake out, and dress it with your blanched almonds - starting at the centre, push them in evenly round the cake surface
  15. turn the oven down to 130 fan, 150 ordinary oven (gas 2 apparently) and no foil this time, back into the oven for 1hr - upto 1hr30
  16. I baked mine for 1hr10 till it felt right
  17. test the centre of your cake with a wooden skewer, it should have a little mix on it - meaning it's almost cooked but just not quite
  18. brush the top of you almonds and cake with a glaze mix of 1 tblsp caster sugar and 1 tblsp milk to make it glisten
  19. and back into the oven for a final finishing 10 - 15 mins.
  20. remove from the oven and cool for a while in the tin, then release it from it's case and paper wrap and cool completely on a wire rack

16 November 2009

pear and almond cake

by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall
If you caught his River Cottage show on Channel 4, the chances are you've got your heart set on cooking up several of his recipes.
This excellent programme has everything I enjoy in a cookery programme.

I don't even like cakes as such, but my eyes were like saucers when he made his pear and almond cake & the recipe is on the internet, so I can blog about it too.

Several tweaks when I do so, coupled with lean baking details - so much so - after 35 mins of cooking at my chosen oven temp @170, it's still pretty raw,
so I decide to bake it for an additional hour as I would a fruit cake (protected on top with greaseproof paper) - and pop out to B & Q to look at doors for our bike shed.

& I come back to a delicious aroma of baked rich pear cake.

So the cooking timings here are 1hr35 @ 170.

Oh, and obviously the sugar goes in at the butter stage to be creamed - they missed that bit out.

My tweaks:
  • no SR flour, so I use plain white, with baking soda
  • the sugar is way too high, so I use 1 thick teasp of honey on the pears after they cook, & 130g muscovado sugar in the cake
it's perfect sweetness too!
  • I never have cinnamon, so I use 1 cardamom pod seeds
Otherwise, I follow the recipe as is, till the baking stage, here it is pre-cooking:

Have a go, you'll love it.

13 November 2009

My Art Exhibition 20 - 29 November

if you are in Cheltenham
please wander in to 12a Landsdown Walk (next to the tyre man)

hours: 10 to 4, on 20th - 29th November

It's a working studio I share with Lella so I might even be painting up an idea

3 November 2009

leftovers and my painting

I've never been very good with leftovers. Indeed we rarely want the same meal twice in a row

but I'm on a mission to keep warm and healthy at the studio, so yesterday's chunky broth, has been given the thai coriander, red sauce & coconut treatment for lunchtime today.

I'll never get the lid on that flask

and my mission today is to decide on a frame for a painting I've taken quite a while over, despite it's simplicity.

It's entitled "death of the comic illustrator" and the narrative is thus ..................

We have the memory of 2 of my sisters in the hospital room looking out of the window, they comfort each other tenderly, and my mother has passed away after years of illness
& I watch unobserved & isolated.

My mother was an illustrator for DC Thompson in Dundee, producers of the Dandy and the Beano and the like.
So I present my feelings in an old fashioned comic snapshot style.

it's taken a while to get it "just so" for me, although the physical painting was rather quick, just an hour.
I wanted it to be like the old unambitious, fudged print on comics, with so few colours, reflecting the memories that are old and recent, that are almost monochrome.

Some things seem so dim & grey on reflection.

6 October 2009


We talk about getting bikes every day or so, but we've got nowhere to store them safely.
Our shed is an idea, but we've got packed boxes in there from 7 years ago.

And our Sunday stroll had us gawping in bicycle shop window bleating "how much....?" at the tri-athlete bike Tony covets.

& as these things come in threes, I've had an idea in my head to paint postmen as they fly off together on their sturdy bicycles to collect their early morning deliveries.
They're quite an impressive sight in a funny kind of way.

So yesterday, I fly off equally set to paint these ideas combined,

more to do to it when it's dryer .....

the painting's just over a metre squared:

25 September 2009

and all because ... the lady loves ... le Creuset

That'll come off I reckon!

Popped out to the pub for a couple of liveners, as the pot roast beef and carrots were working their way to ready the moment we walk through the door.

I do like a thin sauce, but just in case, I'd rescued some out of the pot

................. for a beautiful reduction, it tasted wonderful when I went out for 2 hours

& what about our smoke alarm? It goes loopy when I use the toaster. Not a peep.


Tony's cleaned it with Vanish heated on the hob. It's fobby, but Zing! Look at that finish.
I wish my windows were that clean.