Tag Archives: Food

An old favourite made new

I like Kent, his YouTube channel is well worth a look if you have the time. He does solid grub for outdoorsy folk to provide a warming welcome after a day out in the cold.

Essentially what his ‘mashed potato bombs’ are, apart from being ace comfort food, a different take on potato croquettes (See video below to ‘make from fresh’). Kids especially love them, and they’re a Sticker family Boxing Day favourite. Although don’t let that stop you preparing this treat any damn time of year.

Now I have an alternative method for the same thing which relies on the mashed potato being done British style. Firm, not all soft and creamy like the North Americans prefer. Nor the abomination that used to haunt 1970’s school dinners. When stirred, the British version (at least my preferred method does) tends to form a single mass rather than look like freshly made cake mix. The trick is to add a little butter while mashing so that the result becomes firm rather than sloppy. So you don’t have to use much, if any, flour. Which can leave a cloying aftertaste. Especially if your mash was made with one of the more floury varieties of spud.

So; starting with, say three and a bit cups of firm and slightly dry British style mash left to cool, crack an egg and whisk it properly with a fork so that the egg becomes a smooth yellow emulsion. Add about a half to your mashed spuds and mix thoroughly. Add a little salt and pepper if you like. I usually use a little more pepper because it gives the potato a bit more bite. You can even add a small pinch of cayenne if you like, but be careful.

Now if you’ve got it right, the mix, when stirred should tend to form one piece like a soft ball of dough. The ideal texture being not too firm but kneadable and not leave sticky trails when you roll it in your hands. Roll into balls, tip; bite size is best, leaving a little over half a cup of mash in the bowl. Make a dent in the ball. Add filling. Spring onions or Chives, a good strong cheese (A strong blue is particularly good) and bacon bits if you wish. A tiny smidgeon of sour cream or cream cheese will help to bind the filling, then use a little of the remaining mash to seal it all in each little ball. You don’t need much filling for each one or they will leak into the frying oil and the desired effect will be lost.

A quick side note; I’ve found alternative fillings like cream cheese and pre-cooked prawn or shrimp bits with Spring Onions or chives are excellent but honestly, the choice is down to your individual palate. Leftover Beef or burger bits, fine cut lamb leftovers in a tiny hint of mint sauce, chicken, whatever. Just so long as it is firm and not liquid. If you are that way inclined and your brand of vegetarianism allows egg as a binder, then even some heavily spiced Tofu can be used. If you’re a vegan, sorry, but you are missing out. It’s why very few people remain lifelong vegans. There is so much they miss out on, poor damned souls.

Now give each filled ball a quick (just enough to round it, no more) roll in flour and paint with the remaining egg mix, then roll in breadcrumbs. Heat oil in pan then gently lower each one of the stuffed potato balls in to cook. I prefer to deep fry mine as you don’t need to flip them as with shallow frying, which runs an added risk that your carefully crafted creations will split and ruin the whole thing, but the desired end result is the same; crispy outside, melt in your mouth detonation inside.

So if stuffing the balls sounds like too much fuss and palaver, there is an alternative. Simply mix your finely chopped chosen filling with the pre-mashed potato and omit the sour cream or cream cheese from the recipe before putting on the egg wash and breadcrumbs. Just as moreish, just as tasty and just as calorific. Which is why I won’t be making any for myself any more. Although I’m very, very tempted.

Yet if you’ve made too many to be consumed at one sitting, despair not my last remaining reader, simply allow to the finished item to cool, then stick in the freezer on a tray for twenty four hours to set before bagging for longer term freezer storage. After that, feel free to take out and deep fry a few every so often to repeat the experience, because good things should never be done just once.

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Sauce!

Cookery and diet related post. A few observations on the low-carbohydrate lifestyle we’ve adopted here at Maison Sticker. First, too many almonds give you seriously vivid dreams. Second, after several weeks without potato, Mrs S and I allowed ourselves a portion of chips (fries) as a treat, result; again, hallucinatory 3D and full orchestral soundtrack dreams with CGI. Nothing unpleasant, but unusual for us both, so probably food related. Have decided not to have any more potatoes for the next couple of weeks. That was a bit freaky.

We are both slowly and steadily losing weight without too much inconvenience, although eating out is tricky because all the ‘casual dining’ sector has to offer in Canada is mostly deep fried food or salads smothered in sugar loaded dressings. I guess they’re just catering to their market, but I’m certainly saving a lot of money by not going out.

Instead I’ve been experimenting with our slow cooker or ‘crock pot’ and have worked out how to get the sauce nice and thick the way we both like it without cornstarch. The answer is Arrowroot flour or powder. Which has a similar calorie count to cornstarch or flour, but you use far less of it for the same amount of thickening. I’ve worked out that I can thicken a sauce to the same amount of glutinousness with half the Arrowroot as opposed to cornstarch, ergo fewer calories added to your diet. And no aftertaste which you can get with cornstarch. Especially if you add just a little too much.

Now arrowroot as a sauce thickener reacts differently to cornstarch. Whereas with cornstarch you can put your thickening agent in at any point in the cooking process, Arrowroot works best when stirred in as a cold roux, or water paste, toward the end of the cooking process. A roux being a mix of thickening agent and water in a two part water to one part thickener. But you all knew that didn’t you? Didn’t you? Well now you do.

For a pint of sauce, a half teaspoon of Arrowroot flour or powder should be mixed with a little cold water then added to the sauce juices about ten minutes before taking off the heat. Today I did a poached chicken madras (Two frozen cardboard chicken breasts, a handful of sliced mushrooms, three diced cooking onions and a roughly diced red pepper with a small diced turnip, half a pint of water, two generous teaspoons of curry paste and a pinch of cayenne) with the assistance of Mr Sharwoods Madras paste and an extra pinch of cayenne pepper. Left it in the slow cooker for six hours, stirring in an Arrowroot roux ten minutes before taking off the heat. Result; hot without being scorching, with the chicken falling apart and just enough zing for that lovely little chilli tingle inside the mouth, but not enough to send you running for the water jug. I served it with ten minute simmered Broccoli instead of rice and the verdict from Mrs S was “Bill, is it my imagination or are your curries getting better?” I’d just chucked everything in the pot and switched it on. Frozen ingredients included. No defrost, no fancy prep, just chop the veg up and sling it all in. Set on ‘low’. Walk away for the day, come back, stir in roux, prepare broccoli and enjoy.

All this, a days work and assembling a new dining table to serve it on. I was so damn impressed with myself I lit a candle.

Trip planning redux

Well, now here’s a thing. No sooner have Mrs S and I returned to Vancouver Island than we’re talking about another trip overseas. This time back to Europe.

At the moment we’re talking about flying direct to that shopping centre with an airport attached, Schipol, and using good old Amsterdam as our base to go gallivanting around Northwestern(ish) Europe. However, this is purely the discussion phase; we have to cost out the trip and keep track of our funds. Germany will be expensive, if we decide to include parts of it. I have business to attend to which cannot be put off any longer in the UK, and Mrs S is going to pop into London to visit with Youngest for a few days. By the end of the week we’ll have a better idea of where and when, although my UK visit is going to be limited to the northwestern Midlands. I’ve found out one of my Uncles is still alive and sinning, and I’d like the old boy to know all is good between our respective branches of the clan before he slips into the long night.

Not much else happening otherwise at El Sticker’s Hacienda. I’m already missing Australia, or rather the sunshine and warmth. And the awesome Asian fusion food. Tip for my last remaining reader, in Canada, Gourmet means with extra cheese. In BC most ‘curries’ are just big, very chewy chunks of meat in sauce, not a melt in the mouth spicy sensation at all. In Oz, getting a decent genuine curry is no problem. Why, in some places one almost might be in Manchester’s famous ‘Curry mile’ the quality is that good. Although that’s changing. Which is slightly saddening.

Nevertheless, one thing did tickle my funny bone this afternoon. Mrs S and I went out to purchase a slow cooker for preparing winter curries etcetera and noticed that you can purchase a marriage license at a store called London Drugs. Which kind of begged the question, where do you purchase a divorce? The spares department at Canadian Tire? (Although I daren’t look, herself is watching) You can certainly buy fishing and hunting licenses at most semi-rural grocery stores here on the island. So why not?

Hang on, she’s finding this just as funny, so in the word of the old joke*, I’ll just risk the one eye. Holy Maracas Batman! Divorce for as little as three hundred and thirty bucks? Two hundred for filing with the court plus ten bucks for registration. Eighty for the final registration and another forty for a certificate. Bloody hell, that’s quite a… sorry dear. I’m getting a look now. If you’ve been married for over ten years you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Returning to the less domestically dangerous topic of slow cookers, or ‘crock pots’ as they are called this side of the pond, the smallest we could buy was four US quarts capacity. Which is a tad over six and a half Imperial pints or a large gulp under four litres. That’s a lot of Chicken Madras and no mistake. So batch cooking a few stews will be on the agenda too. Our freezer can handle the overflow. Set everything going first thing and be ready for a substantial supper around six. Well, that’s the plan. Whether said scheme survives contact with reality is another matter.

There is such a concept as too much of a good thing.

TTFN.

* From the old English folk tale of Lady Godiva. The legendary Peeping Tom and a friend are lurking behind a fence with a large knot hole in it as the naked form of Lord Leofric’s wife rides through the streets of Coventry in her one woman tax protest. “Tom, don’t do it mate! Don’t look!” Urges Peeping Tom’s friend. “If you look at her naked flesh, you, you’ll go blind!”
To which the errant tradesman ties a strip of cloth over one side of his face like a crude eyepatch and replies. “Well in that case I’m only going to chance the one eye.”

On the road again

Well we’ve waved TTFN to Melbourne for now and are now on the fourth leg of our Australian Jaunt, dodging ‘roos and Drop-Bears with the added threat of bush fires today. We hope to dodge any large scale fires by hugging the coast as much as possible. Which has paid off so far as we’re heading toward sundown.

Rather ticked off at the car hire company for being a bunch of chiseling cheese parers. Decided to have a go back by painstakingly highlighting every last single fault which they had not spotted in their pre-rental checklist, photographing every single ding or rock chip, as I’m sure the bastards will try to charge my credit card for every last tiny scratch. They didn’t even wash the bloody thing properly. However, I’ve already spoken to my credit card company, and they agree there’s dodgy dealings afoot.

A stern but polite letter will also be going out to the hire company’s head office like the previously mentioned franchise practices I’m not happy with. I did ask them to countersign my updated damage report, but the staff refused. That too will be in my very detailed report to their head office. People who try to cheat me nowadays tend to lose. My ducks are all patiently sitting in a row, each carefully recorded piece of evidence awaiting every attempted incidence of overcharging. You might say I’m being a bit paranoid, but my attitude simply reflects previous experience with car hire companies. Trust does not figure largely in the relationship.

Regardless of the aforementioned, we are now well on our way and have been doing even more “Oohing” at the big sky scenery and deliciously turquoise seascapes. Yes it’s hot, with me taking plenty of roadside time-outs to snooze through temperatures topping 42 Celsius according to the cars thermometer. Well, we’re not in a rush and have made lots of time for this trip, so an impromptu snooze is just the ticket. Tomorrow the temperature is predicted to drop to something more comfortable in the mid 20’s as we round the corner into New South Wales and decide upon whether we’re going to bother with Canberra.

Wildlife sightings have been reduced to spotting roadkill, with two ‘Roos and a couple of Wombats today. Wombats are about the size of a Vietnamese pot bellied pig covered in dark brown fur. There was one bloody smear that could have been an incautious Koala, but it was hard to tell. All we’ve seen of live Australian fauna is cattle and sheep. Oh, and the many Parakeets and Lorikeet variants with the odd Fruitbat around dusk. Beware the Fruitbats, they’re like Socialists, they shit on everything.

Reading has been restricted to my rather dog eared copy of the Gulag Achipelago, Alexandr Solzhenitzyn’s chronicle of his arrest and imprisonment in the Soviet Prison system. It should be compulsory reading for anyone studying ‘political science’ at University. Full text pdf here if you want your eyes opened about totalitarian collectivist government. I first read it in 1975, along with his fictional follow-on “The First Circle” having cut my teeth on the disturbing A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich at school. Hardly holiday reading, unless of course you’re me, but interesting first hand perspectives from someone who survived the Soviet system of thought crime and punishment. Anyone thinking of creating thought crime offences should take careful note.

More cheerfully I can report on my first experience with the notorious Australian “Meat pie” which is as close as the Aussies have to a national dish. The flavour, for my last remaining British reader, is akin to one of the old “Fleur de Lys” latterly “Pukka” steak and kidney pies with a smidgeon of Bovril, encased in pastry that would probably sink a German WWII pocket battleship. Quite tasty, although a little heavy for a hot day.

Anyway, that’s it for now as supper time beckons and I’ve been saving my appetite. TTFN.

Totally tropical

Up in Queensland today, sampling the delights of Brother in laws Tropical domicile. The heat is taking a little bit of time to get used to, but with two showers a day and sufficient cold beer, I’m actually enjoying myself. The only minor upset was when I found I’d forgotten to pack my swimming shorts, so I’ll have to go shopping for a new pair, may the lord have mercy on my soul. Mrs S will no doubt insist I get something a little more colourful, but what the hell.

Which rather sums up my attitude in general. Currently I’m so laid back that I could probably turn my head and kiss my own bum, figuratively speaking. Seen my first Kangaroos. Quite a lot of them actually. Grazing the roadside grassland like some outlandish Megarabbits. I thought we had a lot of Deer in BC, but Kangaroos, they go around in herds of forty or fifty. There are so many that you half expect the buggers to come bounding out of the damn fridge (See below).

I’m told the meat is good though. One of my ambitions to to prepare some barbecued ‘Roo this year, just to see what it’s like. Maybe wrapped in bacon. So brother in law and I will be heading down to the local market to provision the household after Mrs S and I return from a brief sojourn up country to see the Barrier reef, Sharks, Crocs and Koalas. Maybe go see if the legend of the Drop-Bears is true.

I see the war of words between the extreme left and right is making Twatter suspend and delete accounts, again. It still won’t make me use it. Too many room temperature IQ’s screaming at each other like chimps for my liking. Too much knee-jerk emotion. Little reasoned examination of ideas, few cooler heads, too often it’s like watching toddlers in a playground. Where do they think they are, parliament?

One of the things I am getting, from various tours and conversations is an insight into is Aboriginal or First Nations issues, which seem to arise because the natives never had any concept of land ownership. Previously they always lived on the land, but did little or nothing with it. Their territory shifted when they did. Yes, interesting oral traditions and well-adapted way of life, but no real development. Because their societies don’t adapt readily to societal change. Which is where conflict arises between them and incoming cultures. A nomadic tradition will always be at odds with the modern ideas of personal property rights, self determination and challenging old orders. It’s really no wonder they’re so prone to drink and drugs problems. Their traditional way of life is highly structured and when that structure conflicts with external influences, or breaks down the bond between generations, many just can’t cope.

So when someone comes in to build a bunch of new houses the indigenous often don’t really understand why these incomers want to live where they do, and hang on a bit, there was a mountain there last year. Didn’t someone say that was sacred or something? Modern culture doesn’t just live in a place, it actively manages landscapes. Which hunter gatherer societies don’t seem to get. Gardening for example, at least as far as aboriginal cultures are concerned, generally happens to other people.

Just Desserts: Lemon Mousse

Before I leave for Oz, which means I will be incommunicado for a while depending upon the notoriously fickle Interweb service provider service referred to as Telstra, I’d like to donate my low-carbohydrate recipe for Lemon Mousse to posterior. Whatever. Talking of waistline and posterior, mine are much reduced after only a month, so the low carbohydrate diet does work. Plenty of fresh veg, good servings of meat or other protein, don’t spare the fats and salt. Just exclude the starchy stuff.

This recipe is so incredibly easy. Well, it’s easy enough for a bozo like me to get right consistently. Lemon Mousse. Light, delicious and a lovely finishing dessert for after a really Gastrointestinal tract searing curry.

Here’s the low-carbohydrate version first which produces two servings.

Ingredients:

1 Cup Whipping cream
A drop or two or half a capful of Vanilla essence
Zest of a whole fresh lemon
A dessertspoonful of Xylitol sweetener, not any other kind because they don’t work very well in cooking.

Method:
Whip cream until it starts to thicken.
Add lemon zest.
Add vanilla essence
Add dessertspoon of Xylitol
Now whip that cream. Whip it good and hard. Go on. Lay on MacDuff. Spank that whisk mercilessly. Lash it until the cream mix you’re whipping stands up and screams for mercy. Don’t feel guilty. You’re only being cruel to be needlessly sadistic. Whip it enthusiastically until the mix stands erect and doesn’t flop over again.
Decant into portion sized bowls and put in bottom shelf of fridge (Not the freezer!) for at least half an hour.

Remove from fridge when chilled. Eat. Enjoy. Add a little defrosted fruit as a topping or use instead of ice cream.

Of course you could add a dessert spoon of cocoa powder (Not hot chocolate mix) instead of the lemon zest to get a chocolatey effect. Or even substitute the zest of an orange plus cocoa and a hint of vodka to create something that will put a smile on anyone’s face. My wife has officially declared the vodka, cocoa and orange version “Complete evil.” And has stated that it may not be served more than once or twice a week. I was planning to chuck in a measure of Cointreau to create another variant, but have been jokingly warned that this may lead to ‘sanctions’. What forms these ‘sanctions’ may take is not immediately apparent. Although my lady wife has been rummaging in our little bedside box and she’s currently dangling the pink furry handcuffs I thought I’d ‘lost’ sometime last year in front of my nose. Bloody things. Sanctions indeed.

To close; the high-Carbohydrate alternative to this dish is simply to replace the dessertspoon of Xylitol with two of sugar. Change flavourings as need be. It has as many variations as any fevered imagination will allow.

I may be back. What condition I will be in is another matter.

On matters of diet

Regarding comments on the Low Carbohydrate way of life Mrs S and I have recently adopted, I’ve heard about Doctors and Dieticians warning about the risks of dire consequences when ditching most of the starch and sugars we urban humans routinely stuff down our necks and call ‘food’. The general consensus from some expert panels is that we need to ditch fats and proteins for a more carbohydrate based diet. Well, yes, maybe, and then again a resounding ‘no’. Because we’re all different. We grow up with differing tolerances and our digestive systems adapt to whatever foodstuffs are available although even this is not a hard and fast rule.

Now the battle of our respective bulges is seeing real results. Over the last three weeks my belt has come in a couple of notches and I’m feeling much lighter on my feet. Mrs S reports a similar improvement. One of the other improvements is the disappearance of bits of dry skin which no ointment has had any previous effect on. So dropping ‘taters, sugar and starchy stuff seems to have been beneficial. At least as far as we’re concerned. Mrs S’s Cholesterol has dropped well into the ‘normal’ range and her last blood pressure test is well within the ‘normal’ range of 110/70 and 130/80. So all the prognostications of doom for giving up starch and sugar seem to be ill-founded. Indeed, the complete opposite seems to be the case. Could all these dietitians and sciencey (Or at least the ‘educators’) pundits have it bass ackwards? Well, the rising rates of obesity and 30.6% increase in Diabetes II over the last few years would seem to indicate that they have. Despite a plethora of ‘Health’ advice and associated legislation.

A quick over the shoulder glance at our forbears and their way of life would indicate that, well, they didn’t eat much sugar. Not that there weren’t other risk factors in pre modern times, like being run over by a speeding Mammoth on the Stonehenge to Avebury bypass, but at least they were only plagued by things like, well, plague. That and the occasional peckish Sabre toothed tiger. The only real sweetener available to them was honey. Which is still packed with sugars, so we can’t have any of that for our modern Paleo / Keto / Atkins (Whatever, it’s all very similar) type diet to be effective.

A quick word about Gout and similar at this point. Yes it is a risk if you have impaired liver or kidney function, or simply don’t drink enough fluid. But since Mrs S and I drink plenty, it’s not a problem. The possible Vitamin C deficiency we get around by eating stir fried vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Bok choy and cabbage. We’ve also taken to knocking back the occasional sugar free vitamin C tab, so that’s us covered. Mrs S also kicks off the day with a fruit smoothie every morning (No banana), so she’s bouncing with health ans at no risk of scurvy. I get some of my vitamin C intake from a little grilled or fried liver, so we’re both pretty much covered on that score.

My sauces now tend to be sour cream based (Although I’ve just found a local supplier of Creme Fraiche! Yay!) and warmed through rather than boiled to buggery reductions. I’ve even managed to make a few casseroles with nice thick meaty sauces without any flour based roux. I’ll write up the method when work doesn’t take precedence although I have one piece of advice for the interim; do not, under any circumstances use Psyllium husk (Metamucil) as a thickening agent. Unless of course you like comedy food that looks like it was developed for a cheap Dr Who slime special effect. In which case, knock yourself out.

Not your average French Fry

One of the things I’ve been trying to do of late is reduce the amount of carbohydrates (And therefore calories) in our diet whilst retaining variety and taste. To this end, while burrowing around the Internet I found out about the uses of Celeriac or Celery root. At simplest it turns out that you can fry Celeriac like potatoes to make a slightly nutty tasting form of French fry or chips.

Now to look at, Celeriac looks like something dreamed up by a Dr Who scriptwriter with all it’s gnarly tight packed roots and rough skin. You could even be forgiven for thinking it’s some strange sessile alien creature awaiting it’s chance to leap out of the vegetable bin and burrow it’s way into what remains of an unsuspecting cooks brain. But this is not so. This sci-fi looking root vegetable has a firm texture like turnip, without the risk of horror filled school dinner flashbacks caused by mashed Swede or ‘Rutabaga’.

If asked to describe the taste, I’d say it was a mild form of Parsnip with a hint of hazelnut and Crimini mushroom. Actually quite pleasant when you get past the first shock of the unfamiliar, yet definitely superior in flavour and texture to the mouth cloying fries most Canadians are offered in ‘Casual’ dining outlets. There’s no starchiness, and definitely none of that horrible floury aftertaste so many commercially produced French fries leave in the mouth.

Right: Onto the method. Not much to it. Peel Celeriac root and carve off extraneous alien looking tendrils with a knife. Do use a sharp knife unless your vegetable peeling tool is really robust, remembering not to carve off your delicate little pinkies. I refer you to rule 1 of peeling and cutting. Fingers behind the blade edge children. Either that or invest in Bandaid futures.

Once peeled, cut into 12-15mm (About 3/8ths to 1/2 of an inch seems to be optimal) square sections for traditional English style. Put a pint of cooking oil into your oldest and deepest sacrificial saucepan or no more than a third full and put over a medium high heat. Why only a third? It’s very simple, filling less than half your cooking vessel will spare you kitchen fires if you’re called away for five minutes to tell someone on the Interweb that they are categorically in the wrong and you just have to tell them so.

Once your oil goes on the heat, in another pan, boil some salted water and dump your cut Celeriac pieces in. Take off heat immediately you’ve brought them back to the boil and leave for five minutes. Drain Celeriac chip shapes and pat them dry using paper or cloth towels. Check oil temperature periodically by chucking in a tiny piece of Celeriac. If it foams and sizzles immediately, your oil is hot enough for deep frying. If not, patience. All good things come to those who prepare carefully.

When first piece foams and froths in the hot oil, put in as many pieces of cut Celeriac as will fit in one layer floating in the oil and fry for five minutes. Then using a slotted spoon or similar haul them out onto paper towels or into a sieve and wait two minutes for the oil to reheat. Now chuck in the next batch. Follow the same procedure. Let the oil get back up to temperature then put in the first batch again until most frothing and foaming has subsided and the fries are a light browny gold. If you aren’t sure, nick a chip out of the hot oil (Not with your fingers, dimwit!), drain it, dry it off, and when cool enough to eat, taste for desired texture.

At this point it might be a good idea to heat up a serving dish, dry thoroughly and line with paper towels. As each batch of fries becomes ready, drain and decant into this lined bowl or dish to keep them drained and warm. When all batches of fries are done and in the bowl, switch off the stove and serve with Mayonnaise. Or Ketchup. Or Brown Sauce, in fact whatever you want as a dip. Be adventurous. Cook naked if you want (But this blog advises a decent cooks apron, because even a small spot of hot oil on your important little places can really put a painful crimp in the whole experience).

Now serve. Remember, this is a very adult taste, and those under 25 should not bother unless they are as sophisticated as wot you obviously are.

Talking of adventure and I haven’t done this yet, but it’s next on the list; try oven cooking these chips. Instead of deep frying them, after boiling and drying off, roll the cut pieces of Celeriac in a little olive (or any other cooking) oil, dust with dry seasoning of choice, be it salt, salt and pepper, garlic powder, a light sprinkling of curry powder or Chinese five spice, or even a hint (And I do mean only a hint) of Cayenne pepper. Whatever you fancy, but it has to be dry. Then bake, just like you would Oven chips at 220°C/ 425°F for around 30-35 minutes depending on your oven.

Oh yes, a word of warning about Cayenne pepper. Wash hands immediately after handling, just in case you feel the need to rub your eyes. Trust me, you do not want Cayenne in your eyes. Not unless you’re into heavily swollen eyelids and not being able to see properly for a few hours. Cayenne has the same effect as Pepper spray. It stings. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By bread alone

Man does not not live by bread alone. At least goes the biblical quote from Matthew 4:4. Which is kind of the introduction into a matter of diet. Mrs S and I have given up bread. And rice, pasta, flour, noodles and potatoes.

So apparently have brother and sister in law in the fabled land of Oz. Like us they’ve given up on chocolate and sugar entirely. Which some might find a little extreme, but honestly chums, I feel much better for it. Now you might be forgiven for thinking this expensive, but considering the price of bread over here, the cost of two reasonable quality loaves buys a pound and a half of steak once a week. The elimination of chocolate, sugar and other candy pays for more fish like Salmon, which is almost a basic staple over here. And of course there’s room in the budget for more bacon. Especially as I’ve found a decent butcher in our locale who actually knows their meats. They do four (Thank you God) varieties of proper dry cured bacon although I eschew the sugar maple cured stuff.

For her part Mrs S is eating more full fat yoghurt rather than that awful low-fat garbage with the strange aftertaste, and I’ve even taken a liking to garlic stir fried Taiwanese Cabbage of all things. Indeed our consumption of low carbohydrate vegetables has more than doubled. Which pleases Mrs S because she harbours the idea that vegetarianism is somehow virtuous. Odd how a lot of women feel this way. I of course, choose to differ. Meat is my métier.

Essentially what we’ve done is cut all the fattening starch and stodge out of our diets. Which does lead to a few strange looks from waiting staff when we go out for lunch and stipulate no fries or potato and definitely no bread. However, a good steak with buttered Asparagus is always a sound choice. We snack on Hickory smoked Almonds instead of popcorn or sweets when we rent or go and see a movie. I’ve even got to the point where I can easily out-stare a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy milk fruit and nut without a single pang.

One issue I’ve been struggling with is sauces. So many require a roux of flour and water as a thickener, I’d almost given up hope of tasting the delights of a good thick gravy like substitute. And I do love lovely thick British style gravy. Fortunately, the jolly old interweb has ridden to the rescue to provide the outline recipe for a remoulade Cajun sauce. Which I have since refined to the recipe below.

A quarter of a large Red Pepper (Fresh Red cabbage can be substituted if no peppers)
Half a stalk of Celery
One Green (Spring) Onion
A quarter cup of fresh Parsley (Not dried)
Half a cup of full on Mayonnaise
Half a cup of full fat Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche (Creme Fraiche is best)
Two heaped teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
Two heaped teaspoons of Horseradish
A shake or two of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
A shake or two of Tabasco
Two heaped teaspoons of Paprika
Four heaped teaspoons of crushed Tomatoes or two medium size tomatoes
A third of a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

Throw it all in a blender and puree until relatively smooth. It will come out pink, but this is good stuff which warms the mouth without setting it ablaze. Serve hot or cold. Just don’t boil it on the reheat. If you’ve gone down the red cabbage route, this sauce develops a fresh crunchy texture that never tires.

To serve, put a small amount in a side dish bowl, something about three or four inches across for immediate use at the table. Heat it in the microwave if you like. Stick the rest in the fridge or freezer. This sauce keeps. If it lasts that long. It also survives being repeatedly thawed and heated, even in a microwave. Goes pretty well with Steak, Chicken, Pork or Fish. Which is nice. It’s an all rounder with plenty of roundness and flavour.

Haven’t tried it with poached eggs, but I’ve found a quick and easy way to make fresh Hollandaise which is wonderfully buttery and mouthwateringly moreish over Asparagus. Then there’s the delight of French style omelettes, which kick the dessicated flat North American type into touch.  See Below.

Yes the dropping of starch and sugar has been challenging from a cooks perspective, but I don’t miss the rice, potatoes or starch and my waistline is thanking me for it. As for the substitute for cornstarch for a roux, I’ve been experimenting with Psyllium Husk powder, although so far some of the results have been disturbingly motile.

Will report back on this topic once I’ve cracked the method.

TTFN.

A good edge

As someone who enjoys cooking, I like to get reasonable tools for the job. To be specific, knives. Recently I picked up some reasonable German made knives as part of an end of line promotion, which filled a gap in my culinary toolbox. I needed a decent Santoku for chopping, Japanese style, which was part of the set, but, and this is a big but, they’re not so satisfying to use as my ten inch wood handled full-tang Sabatier K, a handy Chef’s knife I bought when we were down in South Carolina on our 2016 cross-USA road trip.

There’s nothing fancy about it as a cooks knife because it’s simply a stamped and forged flat blank with a riveted hardwood handle. Yet none of my other cooking knives can hold a candle to it as far as holding an edge is concerned. Yes it’s heavy, the web of the blade is over 3.5mm (3/16ths of an inch) thick and the handle is pretty chunky and unrefined, but no other blade out of my serried collection of carbon and stainless steel cutting implements handles so well on the cutting board for day to day slicing and chopping. I’ve even sliced soft bread with it. Try that with a traditional cooks knife without squashing the grain of the loaf. Yet there’s nothing really special about it. Perhaps that explains why this particular piece of kit holds the place of prominence it does on my kitchen counter. Because of the sheer weight of steel in the blade it will also chop and hack as well as a light cleaver. Which is very useful for those days when bone or cartilage needs to be cut through with a single sharp blow. Yes it can and does cut beef and pork ribs. No nicks in the blade so far and it’s seen fourteen months of daily abuse at my hands. I’d say it was good kit.

Yes, and I’ve finally potted out my tomato plants which as you can see by the picture below are doing quite nicely.

So that’s it for the moment. The pantomime of BREXIT continues with the drunken lord making ridiculous pronouncements from stage left and the Demon King pops up and down through a handy trapdoor like a demented Yo-yo. Sterling is rising slowly again, well it has been over the last week, but no doubt one market panic will send it slithering back down again.

To close, I just saw the trailer for this amusing little Armando Iannucci movie which won’t be released over here. Which is a great pity. Rather like with Brian Cox in ‘Churchill‘, there’s no Canadian or US release date. There should be.

Because the cast is terrific and would make a welcome change from the usual Hollywood blockbuster bullshit.