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When you're out of ideas

"food matters more than ever in these times. Here is warmth, goodness and punctuation.” Rachel Cooke - The Guardian

The COVID blues are here with a vengeance today. The day started out well - sunshine, really quite warm, a satisfying weed, and then the cool change swept in - a relief at first as it always is - followed by grey skies and rain. Plus I feel totally uninspired as to what to cook for dinner - I suspect it might be another quiche - so I decided to do another bits and pieces post - beginning with booze. I'm not really recommending that you indulge in an alcoholic binge, but it's Friday and we shall celebrate with a glass of wine - and perhaps just to cheer us up a bit more, whilst we huddle over our open fire with some Toblerone, we might also indulge in some:

The picture at left is from that delicious. magazine that I am about to throw out. It was a lovely picture and I do like limoncello. I first encountered it in Italy of course, where one or two little restaurants in little villages in Italy, brought out a free limoncello for us all at the end of the meal. It was a surprising treat, and so when I saw a Belinda Jefferey version in delicious. - no longer online - I gave it a go. The Valli Little one shown here though is available, just by clicking on 'limoncello' above. My attempt was very successful and I have been making it regularly ever since. The only problem being that I forget it's there. And yes you can do so much more with it than just drink it. delicious. has lots of suggestions from tarts, through cocktails and cakes to meringues and ice cream.

Lemon jam

Still on lemons, I don't know if I ever commented on the jam that I made, having written a post on it - well it might have been one of these bits and pieces posts. Anyway it was pretty simple to make - other than getting out all the pips - but that will depend on your lemons. And it was really very tasty - sharp yet sweet - like lemon tart.

Tony Naylor - a Guardian writer has collected ideas from several British chefs to 'tickle tired tastebuds'. They include the olive ice-cream here, which is just trickling olive oil and sea salt over vanilla ice cream - or chocolate even better apparently. I think this one is perhaps not that appealing to me - well not with the rain coming down anyway. You'd have to give it marks for being different though, and there seem to be a lot of chefs who think it's a good idea. However, there was also this brief recipe for Gochujang pineapple barbecue marinade which was quite appealing: "Add 200g gochujang to a drained tin of pineapple chunks with enough soy, sesame oil, sugar and lime juice to create a loose, balanced sweet-sour-hot marinade." They recommend it with tofu and fried paneer, but if you look online for 'gochujang pineapple marinade' you will find heaps of recipes for all manner of things.

Do check out The Guardian article for lots of other ideas of quick and different things to 'tickle those tired tastebuds'.

Elizabeth David and Proust

The other day I came across this rather nice quote from Elizabeth David. I can't remember now where I saw it:

"Proust says, 'Chardin has taught us that a pear is as living as a woman, a kitchen crock as beautiful as an emerald.' Since Proust wrote these words painters and writers have revealed other beauties to us - they have made us see the poetry of factory canteens and metro stations, the romance of cog-wheels, iron girders, bombed buildings, dustbins and pylons. But in the excitement of discovering these wondrous things we shall be poorer if we don't give a thought now and again to the pear and the kitchen crock."

Elizabeth David, writing for Vogue in 1960

She is right of course and pears are in season now so you should go and get some and make something delicious. But I was struck by the reference to the beauty of ordinary things. When I walk these days I am always on the lookout for ordinary things that might make good photos. It started with COVID I think - or maybe just a little before - but has certainly become a thing of late. Here are a few random choices from my 'portfolio':

Spanish cheese

I think the only Spanish cheese I know the name of is Manchego, which seems to have become suddenly pretty fashionable. This absolutely stunning photograph came from an old Gourmet Traveller magazine fronting a learned article from Will Stud on Spanish cheeses. In some ways though there is not much point because for the ordinary Australian they are hard to find. Aldi has Manchego but unless you seek out specialist cheese shops and are willing to fork out a lot of money you are not going to be finding this blue Valdeon or the Bleu des Basques shown below with a piece of Manchego, later in the magazine.

I have tried Manchego but honestly thought it a bit tasteless. The blue would probably be far too tasty for me. Why is it that cheese aficionados always seem to think the smelliest and strongest cheeses are the best? But then I will fully admit that I am not a cheese guru. My taste in cheese is very pedestrian - English hard cheeses, Dutch cheeses and Brie. This issue of Gourmet Traveller was Spain focussed and the selection shown at right is a suggestion for a kind of Basque pinxtos - served with quince paste - membrillo - and fried sage leaves. Again very pretty.

Spanish wines, of course, are also becoming popular with many Australian wine growers experimenting with tempranillo being the most well-known. Spanish food not so much perhaps.

Tony Naylor again - this time on ice cream cones and how to eat them. Plus Nigel Slater on ice-cram sandwiches

The British are very much into ice-cream at the moment - well summer is coming to an end over there, and it's back to school and work this week. I have, in fact, been a bit sick of reading about ice-cream and salads. But if you are looking for a mildly amusing read, do read Tony Naylor's article. It's really quite amusing - e.g.:

"the precarious engineering failure that is the ice-cream wafer sandwich, today enjoyed only by pretentious mavericks."

As a child I used to love ice-cream wafer sandwiches - rectangular blocks of ice-cream sandwiched between two thin wafers - the kind of thing that ordinary ice-cream cones are made of. You would lick all the way round, gradually squashing it down until you just had the wafers left. These days ice-cream sandwiches are much fancier affairs - as in Nigel Slater's lemon ones. The wafer is usually some kind of fancy biscuit and the ice-cream is never ordinary. We might be tempted to make some soon if it continues to be warm - not for at least another week though.

A new kebab recipe

Last week David wanted kebabs for his special meal and having perused all of my 'exotic' cookbooks and not finding anything, I ended up with Bill Granger and this recipe for Paprika lamb skewers with capsicum and parsley salad. - although I made it with beef. Alas it is not online but if you have his latest book Australian Food, you will find it in there. It's very simple - just marinade the meat, cook and serve with that lovely salad. David was looking for more of the salad - which is just grilled and peeled capsicum, parsley leaves, the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. For the meat marinade: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon crushed Szechuan peppercorns, 1 small onion, grated, and 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes. Oh and you intersperse the cubes of meat with fresh bay leaves. Squeeze lemon over when you serve. Try it.

Another recipe - which I have yet to try

This one is from Curtis Stone in the Coles Magazine and it's called Creamy fettuccine with crispy Brussels sprouts.

I'm going to try this one next week I think because I have some Brussels sprouts that need using and it sounded a bit different. You separate all the leaves of the sprouts out and bake them in the oven with stale bread. It sounds interesting although possibly potentially a disaster. But I'm going to give it a go. Yes I am, even though, once again, I am probably being suckered in by the pretty picture.

The rain is now pouring down and we have a mini river in the back garden running down to the big river and taking what little soil we have with it. But I shall not despair. Writing this has cheered me up a little - there are so many delicious food things to try even if tonight's dinner is just going to be tried and true quiche. I took this photo on one of my walks a week or so ago before our COVID numbers soared and Dan and Brett gave up. I don't know whether it's still there. I shall see when the rain stops in a couple of days.


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