Friday, 30 May 2008

30.05.08: Magic lentils and sprouty salad

After a noticeable absence, She gently coaxed the magic curried coconut dal back to the table, this time with a touch of leftover fresh dill as well as the usual spinach, fresh coriander, and brown-basmati-and-wild rice mix. Similarly typical bowl of beetroot and mixed leaved made way for a new salad sensation in the form of mung bean sprouts.

SHE SAYS: Good balance of curry powder to other flavours - sometimes it can get too strong. I thought I added a whole heckuva lot of ginger, but it didn't stand out. Dill proved a nice, quietly bitter herby counterpoint to the bright coriander. Rice mellowed with coconut milk hit the spot, and the crispy yet juicy sprouts will surely feature again.

HE SAYS: Our wholesome take on the Friday night curry benefited from the inclusion of the dill but needed a shake or two of salt to bring it up to the yum factor we luv. I also splashed on some Crystal, which was more an indulgence then a necessity. Mung bean sprouts paired with the beetroot did their part to liven up the salad portion of the show.

29.05.08: Train food

Rushing off to a scholarly event straight after work, She picked up a Crayfish and Rocket sandwish while He snagged a posh-bag New York Deli Pastrami, all courtesy of M&S.

HE SAYS: Just like Katz's Deli in New York, er, no, not exactly but still pretty tasty. I was starving so it was gone before I could take any mental notes apart from
the mustard being a little too sweet. I could've done with a kosher dill pickle to round it off and some celery soda to wash it down (or maybe not, it tastes like piss!).

SHE SAYS: Never lets me down: juicy crayfish, mature spicy rocket, and just enough mayo to help it slide down the chute. Served well to sustain me as we waited 45 minutes on the track and missed most of our event (pout pout) - but at least we weren't hungry!

28.05.08: Frittata, green bnz and salad

She put together a blameless midweek meal: Nigella's Spanish omelette (known here by its mellifluous moniker of frittata), steamed green bnz, and a plain salad with beetroot and avo.

SHE SAYS: Less happy with the frittata this time - too potato-ey, and possibly the subs of vintage Canadian cheddar for elusive Manchego contributed to less intensity of flavour. Green bnz were perfectly cooked, if I do say so meself: deep, bright green with a hint of crunch.

HE SAYS: I agree with her that it was a little heavy on the 'tator. I quite enjoyed the cheddar, but with Manchego would've been better. One thing I'll remember forever, you can never beat the taste of grilled pepper. In any salad, sweetfire beetroot sure beats feta, cheese that is.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

27.05.08: Black bnz and mango mozzarella salad

Mr Bean strikes again: She prepared the newfangled black bnz with typical avocado topping and a salad of peppery young mustard leaves, mango, and mozzarella.

HE SAYS: After quite an indulgent weekend food-wise it's nice to come home to a family staple, not quite bangers n' mash, but just as satisfying, methinks. This week's version was nice and spicy and herby too, what's not to like? Salad aided and abetted the main act's taste quotient with the mango and mozz steppin' up to the plate with taste.

SHE SAYS: Reliable, satisfying, and not too demanding to make - you gotta love it. Think I tossed in a little to much thyme or sumpin', was a little overwhelming, but still tasty, with just enough kick from the chipotle paste. Waitrose has been letting me down with their ripe 'n' ready avos lately - normally they're the very best, creamy, egg-yolky, and deep yellow; suddenly they're pale-lemon and less flavourful, with bruises. Mango right off the seed was peachy-coconutty, just like it should be.

Monday, 26 May 2008

26.05.08: Spinach pie and spelt pasta with fresh sauce

Stuffed! He spent the afternoon making spinach pie, packed between papery, buttery layers of filo with the aforementioned spinach, feta, ricotta and a touch of parmesan. She jumped into the fray with a ho-made sauce of fresh baby plum tomatoes, white wine, capers, a big handful of basil, some chopped garlic, prosciutto, onion, and portobello mushrooms - spooned over some semi-fresh spelt pasta bought at the Richmond market. The salad of cucumber, grapes and leaves was rebelliously simple.

HE SAYS: The wet bank holiday at least enabled me to spend some time making the spanakopita that I hadn't attempted in about a decade without any guilt about missing out on frolicking in the non-existent sun. I set aside 3 hours to leisurely put this baby to bed, and so glad I did as it's quite a production. After creating the spinach filling I noticed the ricotta that we'd frozen and defrosted was not looking like it should, i.e. looked like a puddle of water; I had to nip out and get an emergency ration quick smart. When all the filling was prepared, the buttering and layering of the filo dough went smoothly and cooking was a breeze.

The result was very tasty and decadent and will be a nice lunch for the rest of the week. Her pasta was also great, very fresh tasting. The tomatoes hit the perfect sweetness and the capers and dash of white wine added just enough tart and savoury tang needed to round out the overall flavour. The posh bacon, sorry, prosciutto, didn't hurt neither. Salad was very green looking due in part to the inclusion of some green grapes that were camouflaged to the eye but not to the tastebuds.

SHE SAYS: The spinach pie was extraordinarily rich and delish - it's meant for lunch this week, but it sneaked onto the dinner plate somehow (whistles and looks away). The pastry was perfectly crackly and buttery, the filling herby and moist. My sauce was no slouch, either - can anything with prosciutto in it not be tasty? But even aside from that cheat, the tomato sauce itself was sweet and yumsome. The pasta gets a cheerful thumbs up, despite being a little pricey. The cool green crunch of the salad made just the right counterpoint to all the luxurious flavours and textures.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

25.05.08: Saag paneer, naan, and salad

Trying for authenticity this time: She made Her own v. simple paneer from a J Oliver recipe she came upon by chance and gave this recipe another go, heated up some supermarket naan, and threw together a salad with some leftover ingredients from Friday nite plus new leaves and some avo.

SHE SAYS: Shame the paneer went so crumbly - it was more like ricotta or cottage cheese - but I've seen it that way in some restaurants, too. Still v. tasty, with good depth of spice, but without quite the same salty kick halloumi gave it first time around. Naan was perfectly ok, and the salad did it's fill 'er up routine with flair.

This Indian spinachy treat was delish. The rice cooker enjoyed the night off as I forgot to pick up some rice at the store, but it worked out well since we had some extra naan bread still left in the fridge. Even though it's consistency was more like cottage cheese than firm cubes, the ho-made paneer She made was very yummy and authentic-tasting. The salad was invigorated and brought back to life from Friday, and performed well with the Sweetfire beetroot again taking centre stage.

24. 05.08: Eurovision sushi extravaganza

They prepared a sushi dinner to remember for an evening of very forgettable entertainment. My oh my, but this was a new level of dinner, inspired by Sushi Day and Kittee's recent caterpillar rolls*: He made roast eel oshizushi ('box' sushi) layered with sumeshi (seasoned rice), a decadent mix of real crab, crab stick, mayo and sriracha sauce, plus avo and a touch of wasabi before the crowning glory of eel with eel sauce, toasted sesame seeds and green onion.

And that was just one delicacy on the menu!

She prepared an eel, cucumber, and avo roll; veggie inside-out roll with avo, green onion, cress and toasted sesame seeds; and a roll with crab mix, cucumber and cress. All stacked out with sumeshi, course.

HE SAYS: mmmm, sushi...It was with some trepidation that I picked up the sushi press, the most important of tools to make oshizushi. I shouldn't've been nervous as it was not only fun but also very easy to replicate our Ninja Eel roll that we used to devour back in the day. It probably helps that before we attempted this task we took a photo of a tuna variation to study and inspect on one of our last visits to our fave sushi restaurant before we left New Orleans.

The mix of real crab/fake crab and mayo was very moreish and I found myself licking the bowl for any remaining goodness after layering it into the press. The eel was also spot-on as far as authentic taste goes, so delicious it is beyond words. She made the rolls with passion and precision, and they came out tasting and looking superb - especially enjoyed the veggie roll, which was a fresh and tasty palate cleanser after the indulgent eel with sweet eel sauce. We will have to try this again soon as we are now confident of producing fantastic sushi, miles better then anything we've experienced at any restaurant or grocery store on these shores, at least.

SHE SAYS: This was all stunningly delicious and simple to make - if the sumeshi was made ahead of time, you could even easily whip up a few California rolls and so on for dinner on a weeknight. (Sumeshi's easy to make but has to cool before it's, ahem, ready to roll). Seriously, being able to make such gorgeous little parcels that tasted so incredibly right made me v. happy, indeed.

The eel oshizushi was so perfect in texture and taste - sweet, spicy, soft, salty, roasty - I literally had to close my eyes with almost very bite to savour it. My veggie rolls were spot-on, too - only thing missing was asparagus, I knew there was something else, but couldn't tell 'til I tasted it. Eel roll and crab-mix roll continued the carnival parade of sushi excellence.

We've been wanting to make oshizushi for so long now, and even though He found the holy grail of a box tool many moons ago, we held back because we couldn't find flying fish roe (those little beads of orange goodness you get in most rolls and on top of oshiz. at Ninja). Then He tracked down some frozen roast eel in Chinatown to motivate us, but we felt a little afraid of it - was it the right kind? Would it be...icky? but oh no baby, you pop it in the oven for 15 mins and you get a big, flat slice of heaven.

Just so's you know...of course we had leftovers. As amazing as it all was, we couldn't possibly finish!

*Kittee is a sophisticated, dedicated vegan and in no way would her blog ever inspire our choice of eel as a sushi filling. Her purty vegan caterpillar rolls simply reminded us we needed to get on with some sushi-makin'.

23.05.08: Chicken drumsticks and Tortilla

After a busy week, a visit to Waitrose proved fruitful in the Friday night dinner sweepstakes. Hurried home to warm up were some roast chicken smoked paprika drumsticks and Chorizo, Potato & Sweet Pepper Tortilla from their new Delicatezze range. Figs conveniently on sale plus lime-infused beetroot brightened up a salad of mixed leaves and the remaining Apetina.

SHE SAYS: This meal was a good example of convenience food really letting you down. Those chicken legs were just gross, with a very unpleasant smoke flavour - and our regular readers (all two of you) will know I'm a big fan of smoke flavouring done right. This one done me wrong. The tortilla was not bad, a bit like pizza without the crust and ok for the price. The salad was refreshing and yummy, at least, esp with the fig slices adding soft sweetness.

HE SAYS: I think I enjoyed the chicken more then Her as I thought the smoky taste was not bad, but not fantastic either. The Waitrose Tortilla thingy was a little bland (even though it it was topped with the how-can-you-not-like-it chorizo) and needed some hot sauce to raise the taste stakes. Over all, a pretty forgettable Friday nite dinner apart from the sweet-sweet fire beetroot in the salad and the little washing up it created, which made me a very happy bunny.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

22.05.08: Green red prawn and mango curry and salad

You read it right: She was all set to cook up that classic of a weekday curry to serve over brown basmati and wild rice, when she found the cupboard was bare of red curry paste. Luckily, the green variety was chillin' in back of the fridge. More fridge raiding produced a salad of nice soft leaves of several varieties, the rest of the bunched radishes, some mini-plum tomatoes and some Apetina cheese.

HE SAYS: This dish had a hotter spice kick then usual but was welcomed by my tastebuds and tummy; I had seconds,naturally. I luv this dish more every time we eat it, and the salad was on form with the inclusion of the spicy radishes, which had an earthy, peppery flava flav.

SHE SAYS: I think perhaps the only difference between green and red curry paste is the colour of the peppers, but maybe the green one is slightly more astringent. It's probably my imagination, so I'll compare when we get another tub of the red kind. Posh, pricey mango pieces picked up last-minute from Waitrose were admittedly far superior to the tough little nuggets we've been getting from Tesco lately. In Tesco's favour, the new salad varieties are distinctively fresh and pleasing in texture. The Apetina was as decadently salty a touch as ever.

21.05.08: Out to The White Horse Pub

He joined Her at the pub post-knitting for a slap-up meal of mussels steamed in a wine, cream and shallot sauce, exorbitantly priced bread, and a small chicken caesar salad topped with a few crispy pancetta slices.

SHE SAYS: Wow, all those little buttons o' seafood add up to one very full tummy. I could get the starter size some other time, if we're having bread, too. (£3 for bread - wotta ripoff! but it was needed for optimal sauce conveyance.) The mussels were tender, salty and not dried out - must've been steamed fairly fresh. Cream sauce (more like broth) was subtle and rich. Salad was fine, but the chicken strips were quite dry. Best bit were the basil-infused croutons.

HE SAYS: Was nice to play mid-week hooky from the washing-up with the missus at a terrific pub not too far from home. The mussels were well prepared and the broth was creamy, salty and generally what you'd expect but sometimes don't get. The salad was quite decadent, reminded me of a loaded baked potato without the potato; also was a tad salty, but not in a good way. Overall a thumbs-up for this gastro boozer, would go again - they had a nice selection of beers, to boot.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

20.05.08: Black bnz and salad greenz

Lovely legumes: She stirred up a batch of the newstyle black bnz and threw together a salad of faux-feta Apetina cheese, sundried tomatoes, and the new Peppery Mustard salad from Tesco.

SHE SAYS: Good balance of salty, herby, and hot-spiced, in creamy spoonfuls - it all = mmm. Quite impressed with the new salad leaves, it's not just the same old stuff repackaged, as I feared it might be; the mustard leaves (mixed with spinach and baby red oak) did have a distinctive bitter taste offset by a soft texture.

HE SAYS: Luv me some of dem beans. I do enjoy this way of doing the black beans over the old, much more subtly flavoursome, I had seconds naturally. The salad, with tonight's featured special guests was also dynamite!

Monday, 19 May 2008

19.05.08: Lamb steaks with mash, peas, mangetout and shiitake gravy

Comfort food to kick off the week: lamb steaks marinated in a Mexi spice mix and topped with shiitakes cooked in the pan juices and finished with some white wine; Exquisa potatoes mashed up with marge and milk; plaincooked peas and mangetout; and a salad with the remaining halloumi cheese, new fresh bunched radishes, plum tomatoes and lotsa leaves.

SHE SAYS: It was a nice, hearty meal, but I agree with Him that the lamb was gristly and put me off a bit. What is it with lamb right now? Isn't it lamb season, shouldn't it be at its best? The potatoes lived up to the hint of luxury in their varietal name, and the double-pea dish made for a very pleasing, subtle-tasting green veg portion of the programme. The radishes were the real star, though: finally, a little heat to go with the earthy crunch!

Apart from the lamb being a little too tender, after grilling for a few more minutes it turned out great, although lamb leg steaks are a little gristly, I find. Still, the meal was quintessential rustic French fare. The mash was yum and so were the peas, covered with a little white wine gravy, mmmm... gorgeous!

18.05.08: Another wedding feast

Ceremonial feasting in Kingston Vale: red pepper soup with a swirl of creme fraiche to start...

...and a stylish plate of salmon with basil mayonnaise, chicken with broad beans and snap peas, herbed couscous, boiled new potatoes, and two kinds of green salad with fennel. An indulgent cheese plate of Shropshire blue, brie and sharp cheddar with an assortment of fancy crackers followed (not pictured).

HE SAYS: Salmon was poached nicely but I had to prompt the server for more then a baby-sized portion. Couscous was tasty and fresh as were the veggies. Was pretty famished beforehand and was relieved when we got to sit down and tuck into the soup, which was a little on the sweet side for my taste. Overall, great food and a great end to a smashing do and an eventful weekend.

SHE SAYS: Soup was light and sweet, and I thought the cold plate main meal was very refreshing and nicely paired with the wines. I was dipping everything in that yumsome basil mayo, must admit. Probably had more than my share of the deeply satisfying cheeses, if you pleases, but no one at the table was going without.

17.05.08: Out to Strada

A pre-wedding family gathering landed us back at the blameless Strada: He plumped for the rigatoni with speck, gorgonzola, and rocket in a cream sauce, while She chose the salmon fillet wrapped in pancetta with braised lentils and green beans, all accompanied by a mustard sauce.

SHE SAYS: Overall this was a nice mix of flavours, and the mustard sauce was tangy without being too vinegary or overwhelming. Salmon was not amazing, and that one little strip of bacon was hardly 'wrapping' the fillet, but the lentils were perfectly cooked - not mushy, not too firm - as were the green beans. A fine way to line the stomach for the rest of the night's festivities.

HE SAYS: Been here numerous times over the years and this dish is the one that my eyes are drawn to nearly every time. It's a safe bet and although creamy it's also light so doesn't leave me with the rock in the stomach that cream pasta sauces usually leave me with. Nice food, good glass of wine and good company, what else could you ask for...somebody else picking up the cheque, maybe? Thanks, R+E.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

16.05.08: Saag Paneer and a gorgeous salad

She had a hankering for Indian food on a Friday nite (not unusual) and googled this gem of a recipe for saag paneer - one without added fat from butter, cream or buttermilk. The only hitch: local Waitrose does not sell paneer, and She was not about to hike to next-nearest supermarket at 7pm. So...She got inspired and substituted some half-fat halloumi! To anchor the rich main course served over wild and basmati brown rice, she peeled a mango, chopped the radishes, sliced some avo, and tossed the concoction with with crispy leaves and a readymade beetroot-tahini-horseradhish dip.

HE SAYS: This meal was Indian restaurant quality; with a rainbow-coloured plate it looked great too. Thought the halloumi was an excellent sub for the paneer and overall it was nice and spicy. Mangoes in the salad, whatever next? Pears? Yes, please.

SHE SAYS: This was everything I wanted in saag paneer: deep, rich flavour and creamy textures complemented by the firm, spicy cheese cubes. I knew the halloumi wouldn't let me down - it's a little more crumbly than paneer, but I knew it would stand up to the panfrying. Next time I'll try proper paneer, though, just to mark the difference. I was worried the mint from the halloumi would throw the main spices off, but it was very subtle. Oh, I was out of chili powder, too (unbelievable), but paprika played pinch hitter with aplomb. And after a couple of weeks of uninspired what's-in-the-fridge salads, tonite's raw-food offering was a star. Would def. have the dip again - it tasted nutty + earthy + hot, more of a dip for veg than chips, methinks.

05.15.08: Chickpeas with sherry and salad

A little bit of easy after a tough day: Nigella's chickpeas with sherry and a salad of leftover bottled peppers and some tomatoes added to the remains of last nite's salad.

SHE SAYS: Perfectly fine, though the chickpeas were a little dry (there's a thin line between 'dry' and 'velvety'). Salad had a slight, welcome vinegary tang from the peppers.

HE SAYS: Increased the egg portion of the show by half (1.5 eggs each, extra half missing from pic), and although a little hard boiled, they increased the yum factor significantly. Bought the non- organic chickpeas this time and although larger they lacked intensity. Peppers in the salad acted the part of the sun dried tomatoes with panache.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

14.05.08: Frittata and callaloo

Officially, Nigella calls it a Spanish omelette, but She prefers to call it by its fancy danicin' name: frittata. This one packed in potatoes, eggs, manchego cheese, roasted red peppers and green onions. She also boiled up a couple of cans of callaloo, plain as you please, and freshened up last nite's salad with some tomatoes, grapes and more leaves.

HE SAYS: Nice nosh tonite, frittata was light, fluffy and flavourful. Manchego cheese added a delicate taste sensation to the overall dish and the the peppers created a sweet note. Adding more potatoes than the official recipe called for could've turned the omelette into a brick but She was on the money with the deviation. I found the callaloo easy on the tasebuds and with a splash or two of Chipotle Tabasco, more-ish. The mix of beetroot and grapes in the salad was a new combo but I whole-heartily approve and give my blessing to the couple.

SHE SAYS: The frittata needed to be thick, and I was worried our lovely Le Creuset pan was too wide, so I made an executive decision and pulled from the depths of a cabinet our smallish cast iron skillet. I'm so glad I did! The texture of the frittata was perfect, and the flavour much more complex and satisfying than I expected (I only chose this b/c it looked quick and easy). I used twice as many potatoes, and would have put in another egg if we had one, but it was all v. yummy, anyway. Note to self: bottled roasted peppers were cheaper than fresh and really not bad, though you have to be ok with the slight vinegar taste that lingers. Callaloo is not as nice on its own as its close cousin spinach is, but I'll continue to throw it into other dishes as a spinach subs. Salad - enh, it did its enzymatic duty and that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

13.05.08: Pork piccata and butternut squash + sweet potatoes

Comfort food: Ramsay's veal piccata in pork chop form, with a capery, garlicky, herby creme fraiche - white wine sauce accompanied by butternut squash and sweet potato cubes (look familiar?) spiced with ras-al-hanout. The simplest of salads with Sweetfire beetroot looks on.

SHE SAYS: Saucy! Great flavour, but my chops were pretty tough - took forever to brown. Mmm, me love the capers. V. pleased with my idea for seasoning the veg cubes - I'd made a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom, but it was way too strong. Then the ras caught my eye, and now I know.

HE SAYS: What a lovely sauce, of course! Could've been a little more liquidy, but still delishy. The butternut squash and sweet 'tator cubes worked well in their new boiled incarnation but the chops were too tough to call this meal a Tuesday nite classic. Sweetfire beetroot never fails to dress up any salad, end of.

12.05.08: Prawn and veg stirfry

Mixin' it up on a Monday: babycorn, carrots, Chinese cabbage, brocca, green onions, chili flakes and prawns tipped over rice noodles face of with a leaf salad dotted with avo and olives (come of them garlic-stuffed!).

HE SAYS: Long time since we had this, I enjoyed the baby corn which was blackened a little, giving them a sweet overtone but the rest of the veggies got lost among the strong flavour of soy sauce. Harissa was an unorthodox solution to this problem and notched it up from a 5 to a 7, while the salad's lemony garlic olives shot it from a 7 to an 8, in my humble a-pin-onion.

SHE SAYS: It had that hot-wok grilled flavour I was going for, but it was otherwise a little bland and improved mightily with a small dose of my ho-made harissa. Rice noodles were blameless and the salad encouraged casual picking out of the zesty olives.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

11.05.08: Scrambled eggs and salad

Just a little sumpin' sumpin' for Sunday: scrambled eggs and spinach salad with fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and a big ball o' mozzarella. He augmented his plate with a Marmitey bagel.

SHE SAYS: Just what I needed: quick, easy and filling, but not too filling. The herbs and oil clinging to the sundried tomatoes added a subtle pizza-like flavour to the salad, which was quite welcome. The only thing I would have added was another egg or two - scrambled eggs are v. moreish!

HE SAYS: After a boozy picnic lunch, this meal hit the spot - breakfast comfort food. Salad was perked up with SDT and mozzarella, which tasted better then the posh "taste the difference" Tesco variety we tried last time.

10.05.08: Out to Won Kei

This Won Kei visit was a duty call of sorts, as we were introducing a friend to its delightfully cheap culinary charms, which for Our part meant lemon chicken (His) and mushroom chicken (Hers) over hearty helpings of white rice. We ordered the Chinese greens, but they never made it to the table, more's the pity.

HE SAYS: I was eager to have a hearty lemon Pledge chicken dish to myself. When it arrived I felt a little cheated as the portion was a little smaller then I've previously witnessed. I do harbour some white trash embarrassment over ordering this step-child to the 'sweet n' sour, day-glo
orange, deep fried battered prawn ball' dish so common in strip-mall Chinese joints, but it's so good - magic sticky lemony sauce over deep-fried chicken strips, I quickly waved away my shame and dug in and savoured the flava.

SHE SAYS: This is what I order at Won Kei when I'm trying to be a tad virtuous - no deep-frying, for instance - and it's always
yumsome, but I found myself pondering the extreme tenderness of the chicken - pondering specifically whether it was a good thing, exactly. But then I decided not to ponder, and just spooned over more of the pepper-oil concoction they set on the table that you can't get anywhere else and that I long for, for days afterwards. The mushrooms are always an impressive mix of wild and mundane, earthy and salty. I missed the gingery greens, but not enough to stay on the table that much longer - white rice is rather filling!

09.05.08: Quorn, veggie sauce, and halloumi salad

A quick fix: Quorn lemon-pepper escalopes with chestnut and portobello mushrooms, plus aubergine and a Lloyd Grossman roast garlic-basil sauce. Some panfried halloumi pepped up the salad and made it feel more like a Friday nite.

SHE SAYS: Good enough! I could eat Halloumi forever, it really is the bacon of cheese, as He said. And quorn patties are like the chicken nuggets you can have without feeling guilty.

HE SAYS: Veal Parmesan without the veal and Parmesan, yum. Sauce was tangy and the veggies hearty and flavorsome. Halloumi did not disappoint either, we both searched the salad bowl for the last pieces of squeaky goodness after second helpings and found only crumbs which we fought over vigorously.

08.05.08: Fridge raiding and frozen pizza

Working late unexpectedly led to a fend-for-yourself scenario. She considered stopping in at M&S, but realised there was plenty enough in the fridge to make such a £6-£8 detour unnecessary. A toasty white bagel spread with baby avo and leftover sundried tomatoes on one side, plus marge, Marmite, and one perfectly soft-boiled egg on the other fit the bill.

Later, He popped into Waitrose on 'is way home and picked up a salami, ricotta, and olive pizza for this unusually diversified dinner. (No, She wasn't jealous. Really.)

HE SAYS: Well, this was my first convenience food experience of the year and it was, yes, disappointing. The double zero flour boasted in the ingredients didn't help elevate the crust's brewer's droop, flaccid and lifeless; no amount of extra minutes added to the recommended cooking time helped. The salami was nice and the olives added a little something but I was left with a feeling of ennui after the last mouthful. Apparently this pizza won an award in some chilled pizza contest, the cheek of it.

SHE SAYS: Much more satisfying than the packaged sandwich and salad scenario I was contemplating on the bus. Something about a boiled egg on Marmitey toast after a thoroughly disgusting day is just naturally, deeply soothing. The avo-spread half was just as tasty in its own way, with the salty tang of the sundried tomatoes adding just enough flavour. Then too, the satisfaction of a good improv added its own seasoning, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

07.05.08: Salmon cakes, fancy veg, and salad

Not your averge Wednesday nite: She tackled Nigel's salmon and dill fishcakes, stirred up the yoghurt-mustard-dill sauce just like he said, sauteed the fancy veg (plus guest star baby corn) in some wok oil, and sliced garlic-stuffed olives, sundried tomatoes and physalis for the salad.

SHE SAYS: I just had a feeling this weekend that Nige would show us the way out of rice-n-pulses repetition, which is why his firmly in-season inspirations are so prevalent lately. Even so, I figured I was taking a risk attempting something as traditionally fiddly as fishcakes midweek. But nooooooo! Not only did they bind properly, they browned perfectly and had an incredibly dilly-of-a-pickle zing to them. I have never, ever had such success with seafood cakes of any kind! (My modifications: 5 Tbsp dill, double the flour.) I kept inhaling the scent of the second one on my plate, b/c it was so fresh and toasty good! The good veg were made remarkable with the unusually sweet baby corn, and the salad reinforced all the savoury goodness of the plate.

HE SAYS: Fishcakes done right. No potatoe-y stodge here, thank you, these specimens were the business. I would of paid top dollah for these babies, yes. Light, crispy on the outside and deliciously moist inside, I luv them long time. The special yogurt sauce that acompanied them was very moreish with heaps of dill keeping it nice and fresh. A perfect mayonnaise replacement for you to cherish. I will have to spread some leftovers on some bread before it's too late. Salad tried its best to impress and with the sweet, tart and tasty
physalis, it succeeded, sorry I doubted you, really I am.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

06.05.08: Lambchops, potatoes, and green bnz

Hang on kids, we're going rustic: Nigel's lambchops panfried in mint, lemon zest and olive oil, featuring potatoes crushed with the pan's wine reduction, plus green bnz peppered with chopped bits of Her preserved lemon. Meanwhile, a salad of spinach, creamy blue cheese, Sweetfire beetroot and a tiny little baby avocado upped the taste stakes.

HE SAYS: French bistro style menu. Lamb was tender, beans crunchy and cooked with the salty/bitter preserved lemons and the potatoes were light and fluffy. All smothered by a lovely fruity and tangy gravy.
Voila! Terrific, oh and the salad did not disappoint either, what with creamy blue cheese bits, who's ya mumma?

SHE SAYS: Not bad...I was hoping for a deeper brown gravy, but it just didn't materialise. I threw in red wine instead of the lemon juice for deglazing at the end, but I think that was fortuitous. The flavour was interesting, and the pan juices did their job of yummifying the naked potatoes, but I still was a little disappointed. My green bean inspiration proved a winner, and the salad had me picking away at the bowl for all the good bits. Beetroot and blue cheese are classic partners, after all...

Monday, 5 May 2008

05.05.08: Chickpeas with harissa and basil, plus halloumi salad

Turning to Nigel for a summery touch, we find something to soak up Her ho-made harissa: a hearty mixture of roast tomatoes and aubergine with chickpeas topped by decadent flags of prosciutto quickly crisped in the roasting pan's savoury residue. On a similar theme, she also toasted up half a block of halloumi for a salady treat.

I suspect this one will be a regular. The aubergine was meaty and cumin-infused after its hour of roasting, and the whole shebang made for splendid good eatin'. Tiny tip: I boiled the chickpeas for a while instead of simply adding them after draining and rinsing - makes them a little more velvety, and takes the tinny edge off. Really, this dish doesn't even need the prosciutto on top - just gilding the lily. The halloumi was terribly spesh with its salty goodness, as always, but I think we agree that the Tesco's Finest brand wasn't noticeably better than the bog standard one we normally toss in the basket. If anything, it was a tad bit more subtle - and you may have noticed that subtle is not our bag.

HE SAYS: Mmm, very Morrocan-infused dinner tonite, what with the North African flavoured chickpeas and the delectable squeaky halloumi (the bacon of cheese) with added mint in the salad. All very light and tasty. Let's do it again, soon.

04.05.08: A real palaver

A mix-up in plans left Us with two distinctly different dinners. We were both going to have burgers from FBC at a relative's house, but the never-so-hot FBC neglected to put her Greek Lamb burger on the order, which of course went undiscovered until we were all at the table. Oy.

So he had a deluxe original with hand-cut chips, while she nibbled some unremarkable 'chopped salad' with 'ranch' dressing 'til they could scoot home and She could boil up an egg, fix some toast, and have some real salad leftover from last nite and dressed up with few more spinach leaves and a dab or two more of the blue cheese.

HE SAYS: Burger was a tad disappointing, overdone and the bun was soggy, but I was frickin' starvin' Marvin. I ate it up quick-smart and then feasted on the chips which were better than Nando's offering from a week or two ago. Shame about the order screw-up, it's always fun to have dual reportage in the field.

SHE SAYS: They call that ranch? More like mayo with a touch of garlic. The so-called salad was mostly
radish and odiferous red onion (had to keep picking it out), with a few soggy rocket leaves for colour and an insulting pair of 'croutons'. My quick egg-on-toast was far better, and the salad held up quite well - I was glad to have it.

03.05.08: Spinach omelet, facy veg and salad

Something hearty before the party: He perfected the spinach omelet with gruyere, mixed in some edamame with another pack of fancy veg (hey, it was 3 for 2, so watch this space!), and concocted a salad of avo, radish, grapes, more spinach, and some Castello blue cheese.

SHE SAYS: I'm totally jealous of His omelet technique, whatever it is, but I'm glad I get to eat the results. This was perfectly fluffy on the inside, toasty on the outside, and had just enough filling to make it mmm-worthy, but not soggy. The edamame came already blanched in a very affordable pack, and added just enough variety to the 2nd pack of fancy veg...we'll be seeing that li'l green bean again, in a different capacity. The salad had a creamy richness thanks to the joint efforts of the avo and blue cheese, which was gloriously brie-like, but disappointed slighty only because we were expecting the intense flavour we all know and love in a blue. We'd neglected to read the package's fine print of 'a subtle and incredibly creamy blue cheese with a well-balanced flavour'. Ah well, it was still a treat...

HE SAYS: An easy quick fix before a night out on the town, she describes it so eloquently, not much to add apart from it was brill!

02.05.08: Grilled salmon, fancy veg, and caprese salad

She knows how to move it on a Friday nite: Salmon loin dusted with a southwestern spice mix and grilled with olive oil; one pack fresh fancy veg, stir-fried with wok oil (purple sprouting brocca, sticks of carrot and butternut squash, and snap peas); and a layered salad of Garofalo buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves, and some properly ripe red tomatoes,

HE SAYS: I thought the salmon was grilled to perfection, on the verge of burnt but very tender in the middle. I haven't tired of and still enjoy the spice rub it's coated with, and with a squeeze of lemon I was in 'eaven. The veggy medley made a first-class support act, al denté not
Al Bundy.

SHE SAYS: The salmon tasted lots better than it looks - it came close to being blackened, but just escaped such an indignity. The veg were just fine, ma'm; the little juliennes of squash were particularly sweet and had a pleasing potatoey texture. I was really looking forward to the salad, craving that near-bitter bite of basil with the creamy mozzarella and plump, juicy tomatoes, and was not disappointed - only, I could have easily saved £1 and a bit instead of buying the fancy cheese, because the good ol' Lucia brand would've been just as good for flavour. In fact, I think I like its strandy texture even better, if ya know what I mean.

01.05.08: Butterbnz with chorizo, whole carrots and salad

Good cookin' and good lookin: She used up the other half of the chorizo in a simple butterbean stew pimped up with some white wine and rocket, spooned over some leftover brown basmati, wild and red camargue rice. Whole organic boiled carrots and a salad of Apetina, physalis, radish, and various leaves.

SHE SAYS: The bnz were made quite the treat with that smokey intense chorizo, though even without they would have made more than passable filler. Carrots were ok, but not nearly as tasty as the Chantenay variety, though I still found myself reaching over for one more skinny stalk...and the salad was typically praiseworthy, with equal elements of tangy, soft, salty and crunch.

HE SAYS: I like me some butter beans, they are nice and soft and potatoesque in texture, one thinks. Chorizo was a tasty treat, fried to a crisp, bacon-styley and crumbled into the stew a lá posh baco bits, yumm. I though the carrots had quite an intense carrot-y taste which you sometimes lack in the larger varieties, the taste mimicked the smell of 'em, if that makes any sense. Salad with the newly discovered Apetina tickled the tastebuds once again.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

30.04.08: Quorn and veggie pasta

Care for a cutlet? She boiled up some (falsely advertised!!) spelt fusilli pasta, stirred up some onion, chestnut and portobello mushrooms, and aubergine, tossed in a bottle of Lloyd Grossman, and mixed it all up, then pan-fried the inimitable lemon-pepper quorn fillets and shaved over some parmesan. The Sweetfire beetroot, watercress, and Apetina salad was lookin' pretty, too.

HE SAYS: Cor, what a nice concoction she served up tonite. Been a missin' those quorn, chicken impostor cutlets, they be tastee. Lloyd, you now how to make some special sauce, not too sweet like those other supermarket posers. I had more then my fair share of the sweet, sweet fire beetroot salad, and let me tell was okay, was special. I luv me some of that ruby red magic root vegetable, bring it on and serve me some, mista.

SHE SAYS: I was horrified to discover, after I put the pasta on the boil, that it was only 30% spelt and the rest was wholewheat, despite being labelled boldly as 'spelt fusilli' only. So it was full of the strong gluten that makes me bloaty as a beachball, and that's exactly what it did. It tasted fine, and my dinner was overall ok - not remarkable, but nice enough. The salad was esp fiery...oo, am I mad!