Monday, 16 July 2012

Starting with Pie

With over thirty years experience I used to be able to knock up supper without a thought. Then I moved in with a vegetarian. It's true, Dave would be happy if I served up Bombay Potato every day, but I wouldn't. So I'm trying to teach myself how to cook without meat and fish in a way that satisfies my craving for the textures I've rarely found in flesh free fare. The kind of texture chicken stock gives to risotto, or non-lean minced beef gives to chilli, or that comes from frying very thin slices of streaky bacon in a smoking hot pan. I don't hold out much hope but I reckon I'll give it ten years.

Last Thursday we had Jim, Dave's musical partner, down from Glasgow for the night. He's not a vegetarian and I wanted to make something that didn't smack of 'ism': there's nothing more off putting than being served a movement by a strange cook. So I adapted Nigella Lawson's Supper Onion Pie (from How to be a Domestic Goddess) to suit my current passion for goat's cheese.

Onion and Goat's Cheese Tart
Take four large onions

And four sprigs of thyme
Cut the onions into chunks, and in a 23cm, or thereabouts, heavy bottomed shallow pan that can go in the oven  cook them with a tablespoon of olive oil and 25 grams of unsalted butter until very soft and lightly coloured. Add the de-stalked thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.  Crumble in 100g of goat's cheese. 
Make the scone pastry by sifting 250g of plain flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt into a large bowl. Crumble in 100g of goat's cheese. In a jug mix 100ml milk, 40g melted butter, a large egg and a teaspoon of English mustard. Pour this onto the flour mixture and stir together until you get a sticky dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface then just press it out until it's the right size to fit your pan.
Transfer the dough to the pan and cover the onion and cheese mix tucking it in around the sides. Put it in the oven at gas 5 and cook for 20 minutes.

Leave it to settle for five minutes before turning it out onto a flat plate. 
I served it with potato salad and tiny tomatoes dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. And it was a mighty success. As was:

I've given you my cheesecake recipe before but I can't find it to provide a link, so if anyone wants it let me know and I'll give it again. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Fitting in

Just stepped in from a spot of gardening because the rain's come on. Our garden is a low ledge that runs along the front and (one) side of the house. We have nothing at the back, a neighbouring garden comes right up to our kitchen window.

Apart from space its main shortcoming is light. The house faces north, so most of the plants get very little light and almost no sun. The side of the house faces east so we do get some morning sun, and thanks to the close proximity of the house opposite, at this time of year, in the middle of the day, some of the plants find themselves able to enjoy sunlight reflected off its windows.

Because I like to cook I want to be able to grow herbs, and today I bought sage, mint, parsley, and oregano. I already have chives, rosemary and bay. The bay tree is doing marvellously, the rosemary less so. I may have to move it, though I suspect it's the constant rain that's causing the problem.  I hope I've put the new herbs in spots where they'll get some sun when it shines, I'll have to keep my eyes open to their needs and move them if necessary.

On another note: I'm about half way through reading my novel; it's nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be and I'm actually quite enjoying it. The basics are there: the idea seems sound, I stick to the theme, the characters have all the necessary dimensions and, crucially, it has a narrative thrust. I think I now know what I need to do with it and sketched out plans for a major rewrite this morning but will finish reading it before I begin all that. It's getting quite exciting.

Reading, noting and sketching I do in bed, but once it comes to the rewrite I'll have to go (all the way downstairs!) to my desk everyday. Luckily I've found a cosy spot to put it.

My workspace: between the window and fireplace, and behind the (man-size) TV.

 Not that it's mine. It once belonged to an aunt of Dave's and so is really his, I've just borrowed it for the time being. As you can see I've covered it in the debris of my existence, and I feel quite at home sitting here at it, typing this post. I have my own office chair (which was once Bob's), my computer, pens, pencils, notebooks and knick-knacks. And, when he's not out fishing, I have Dave sitting at his desk on the other side of the stove working on his own (second) book.

If anyone out there has experience of gardening in heavy shade areas, and, thus, any tips to share please do.