Tuesday, 30 December 2008

30.12.08: Turkey and sweet leek pie once more, plus red cabbage

It's a D4D record; same main course 3 days in a row! but these are quality leftovers, people. The Cornish pasty-like turkey and sweet leek pie served us right once again, and the addition of red cabbage conveniently taken from the freezer made Her feel like nothing so much as a smart '50s housewifey type of gal. Simple salad of rocket and Sweetfire beetroot felt the extra pep of the wasabi-lime once again, too.

SHE SAYS: I was actually looking forward to this - again! Turkey leftovers never tasted so good (tho' I used to make a mean turkey tortilla soup). It's esp good with the tangy red cabbage for contrast. Salad continued the royal purple theme with panache, and the combination of sweetfire + wasabi dressing cleared my sinuses.

HE SAYS: Hit me baby, one more time. Me luv some turkey pie! The red cabbage provided yet another seasonal accompaniment to the plate, and I was sad when the last bite of pie entered me cake hole and I knew Christmas was over for another year. The simple salad was simply bliss with the inclusion of the firey and shweet beetroot and hot and tangy wasabi dressing.

29.12.08: Sweet leek and turkey pie re-run plus butternut squash remix

See that? That's called a new camera, folks. And it has a 'food' setting! We likey. What say you?

She heated up the turkey and sweet leek pie, and tried to revive the other half of the bland butternut squash with some ras-al-hanout and more maple syrup. Nigella's wasabi-lime dressing stood by to liven up the remnants of last night's salad, refreshed with more leaves and some pear.

HE SAYS: Please, sir, can I have some more? Well yesh you can, and it will be even tastier having rested overnnight in the fridge. The squash was better then the last go-round and helped add seasonal cheer to the already very winter-warming dish. The wasabi dressing always makes any salad that little bit better, so no need to add anything new to my latest salad review.

SHE SAYS: All good for the second go-round, and my I add the cliche of 'maybe even better after being in the fridge'. Haven't had the wasabi lime in a while, and my tastebuds greeted it with glee. Less gleeful was their response to the butternut - maybe this was just a bad gourd.

28.12.08: Turkey and sweet leek pie with peas

Back to the '70s: He made sure Our Christmas turkey takings were put into something special, namely Jamie Oliver's turkey and sweet leek pie. A dig thru the freezer produced enough peas to round off the plate, and a salad of rocket, radish and carrot rocked on.

SHE SAYS: Comfort food at its best. The perfectly crunchy, buttery puff pastry is such a treat, and the masses of leeks cooked down into the turkey sweetened the deal. The pancetta didn't hurt either, but per usual didn't play a large role in flavour performance. The peas were a little hard, possibly a tad frostbitten, but helped the salad out with the fiber provision.

HE SAYS: Having spotted this one on the telly the other night I was very intrigued to test it out. I thought while cookin' it that it was a little overkill on the leek quantities, but hey, they boiled down by at least half before I mixed them in with the turkey. The whole pie was a little like a turkey pasty but I'm not complaining, the filling was not too soupy and it glistened with goodness. I think we'll get a few more dinners out of this one yet.

27.12.08: Out to Le Mercury

The bread. The wine. The candlelight (trust Us, it's there).
For Her b-day, They decamped to Le Mercury, Their favourite Frenchy restaurant ever - the one with the perfect buzz of romantic atmosphere, low prices, and, of course, good food. We first sampled the mussels and frites here together over 14 years ago, and we love it no less now than we did then. We pay it fewer visits now we no longer live in North London, but we think of it often.

We'll let the captions do the description on this one.

His moules marniere: mussels in white wine with
cream, shallots, garlic, lemon and parsely

His entrecote a l'echalotte: rib-eye steak chargrilled and served with shallot sauce
HE SAYS: Mmmm, mussels in creamy wine sauce. What's not to like? With the added bread basket I was set for an evening of soaking up and savouring the delicious nectar. And then came the steak in all its perfectly cooked and succulent splendidness. The fries were a marvelous crispy, sauce dipper when all the bread disappeared and the shallot sauce waited to be devoured. Did we have a salad? I remember little of it (must of been the wine). For dessert, I thought the coconut sorbet was perfectly paired with the pineapple, and I left full and satisfied into the very chilly north London night, secure in the knowledge that Le Merc still delivers a fantastic night out for pennies.

Her tiger prawns cooked in parsley and butter, with chili aioli
SHE SAYS: I was so happy to sink into our window seat after a l-o-n-g (but good) day at the after-xmas sales. I simply cannot believe we've not paid Le Merc a visit all year long. The thin, perfectly crisp frites are reason enough to go, but my fall-apart pork with its jus and baked apples gave me even more reason go mmmmm. The prawns were yumsome and indulgent, tho' the sauce was simply run-o-mill chili mayo, nothing special in the aioli dept.

Our frites and green salad, and Her poitrine de porc: slow-roast honeyed
pork belly with confit celariac and granny smith apple
Being the b-day gal, I chose dessert, and chose with restraint. Two days of cheesecake will do that to you. While I thought the glaze could have been a bit less rushed, the flavour combo of coco-pineapple was deeply divine and refreshing. Happy b-day to me, and make no mistake.

Our glazed pineapple with coconut sorbet, plus a decaf coffee for Her and a latte for Him

26.12.08: Quorn, black bnz, red cabbage, and baked butternut squash

Can you believe we cooked at all the day after Christmas? We're saving the considerable turkey leftovers for something special, you'll see. So on with the dinner show: She heated up some leftover balck bnz and another container o' red cabbage, panfried some lemon-pepper quorn escalopes, and baked a butternut squash with a touch of maple syrup.

Squash seeds toasted with sage, celery salt, black pepper and oregano made a fine snacky accompaniment, while a dutiful salad of radish and leaves held upt he raw food portion of the programme.

SHE SAYS: Wow. That was some seriously bland butternut, even though it got a typical treatment of olive oil, maple syrup and salt 'n' pepper. Puzzling. Bnz had a good second outing, at least, and the red cabbage did its usual sugar 'n' spice number with a touch of the tart about it. Can't help but love crunchy chickeny quorn, and the seasoned squash seeds almost made up for their ho-hum counterpart.

HE SAYS: Yes, a shame about the squash, I think skinning and cubing it before roasting it delivers better results. Other then that, all was good: the bnz retained their herbiness, the red cabbage flexed its sweet, vinegary muscle and the quorn added the crunch to the plate. The salad was a plain palate-cleansing affair but it was the squash seeds that were too fantastic to describe in a few words, so I won't even attempt it.

25.12.08: Traditional turkey dinner and birthday cheesecake

Dessert first: He made the most sumptuous birthday cake She's ever had (yes indeedy, he made it), the macadamia toffee cheesecake from Ottolenghi. Behold and be jealous: that's a deep cheesecake base made with real vanilla bean; a handcrafted macadamia nut-brittle topping; and lashings of praline-like caramel draping the base. (We did wait til after dinner to dig in, but it deserves top billing, doncha think?)

He also sourced the giant prawns you see before you, and boiled 'em up good to serve with some M&S salmon mousse and fresh leaves for a jolly xmas starter at His family 'ome.

By the time we got to the main course, we were all a little out of focus. His mum and youngest bro tended to the turkey; His mum did the sprouts and red cabbage (it's her recipe, after all); bro sorted out the roast potatoes with a rubbing of goose fat, and the two bros together managed a gravy. What was She doing, you ask? Chilling out in the den with a movie (a birthday girl has certain privileges).

HE SAYS: The cake was a little daunting but came out great, lots of steps and only a few mishaps along the way to create a very tasty volcano from close encounters. The rest of the meal was also satisfying; the turkey especially came out all nish and tender (maybe it was the ample strips of bacon that were laid on its back while cooking). Me mum's red cabbage was not better then my modified version but a little less vinegary and intense. The 'taters roasted in the goose fat also never fail (well, how could they?). Oh, and the giganto shrimp were surprisingly tasty for their size. Loads of food with no drama makes for a happy christmas.

SHE SAYS: I admit to misgivings about the prospect of xmas dinner his year, and quite happily
also admit they were unfounded. The monster prawns were sweet and easy-peel, given extra flavour by bro-in-law's coriander-chili dressing. The big bird was perfect: golden, tender and juicy. I didn't really need gravy, but took a smidge for tasting purposes (not bad, not fab). The potatoes were equally amazing, but I could only eat one by the time I got around to them, much as I wanted to have more.

Red cabbage was the main course stunner, prompting me to ask what might be different from the 14-yr-old recipe we've so carefully archived, and lo! All these years we have missed out a few cloves to spice things up. I could have guessed but didn't. Notes will be made.

Now, the cheesecake. Oh my. The base was so densely rich and mildly sweet, I would have happily had it alone. But then I would have been denied the delights of the fudgy caramel, plus the crackling roasty macadamias. A blissful balance of nutty and nectar, not to mention creamy and crunchy. (Thanks, sweet thang.)

24.12.08: Black bnz and a pomeflowertini

He decided to make the Eve a little more festive with the purchase of some pomegranate-elderflower cordial for an after-dinner drinx mixer, resulting in the aforementioned pome-flower-tini (cordial, vodka, pom seeds). Purty, innit?

And She was more than happy to make black bnz for Christmas Eve complete with the usual polenta and avo accompaniment. Salad of pear, radish and soft leaves contributed to the celebratory atmosphere.

SHE SAYS: A good spicy batch of bnz, and this time the polenta came out thick and plain, just the way We like it. always good to have something easy and delicious in your pocket for the evening before a big holiday...though I daresay he had it less easy, bzzy as he was with a special b-day project for Moi in the kitchen...

HE SAYS: Nish batch o' bnz. They were very herby and aromatic yet again and the polenta demonstrated the best consistency we've had, not too solid and not too mushy. The pear added the shweet to the radishes' salt, and so all was well in the salad kingdom.

23.12.08: Veal piccata, mash, veg medley

It was a nice idea: since She jumped on the beef bandwagon, He decided to make Ramsay's veal piccata with - veal! (Normally we adapt it with pork.) Maris piper potato mash plus a side of steamed mangetout and baby sweetcorn filled out the plate, while a salad of baby leaves, pomegranate seeds and avo sparkled nearby.

HE SAYS: I thought I would splash out on the expensive veal tonight so We could both experience the joys of this recipe done authentically. Unfortunately for Her, She couldn't eat it and left Me with the job of eating two portions of the tasty, milky meat. Although the veal was great, I think pork works just as well or even better, adding a little more fulfilling, salty tastiness to the gravy. The mash worked well as a sauce sponge, and the mangetout & sweetcorn reminded us to eat our veg. Yum was the salad.

Her top-up of goat cheese and Dr Karg seeded spelt
SHE SAYS: I don't know what happened to my newfound beef tastebuds, but they conked out on this one. I've had veal before and liked it well enough, and the sauce smelled divine, but the main item grossed me out. It just tasted rancid to me, though He had His and Mine and was perfectly fine. Dang. I ate the rest of my meal with a good heart, esp the creamy-yet-chunky mash, and had a little snacky top-up (above) for good measure. The tarty little salad helped put it all to rights as well.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

22.12.08: Lemon chicken with beetroot, radish and avo salad

He prepared the lemon chix meal earlier so She could just simply stick it in the oven, set it and forget it. She chopped the salad fixin's of avo, sweetfire beetroot and radishes and added them to the watercress tentacles.

SHE SAYS: He does good prep, I must say. It was terribly satisfying to simply remove clingfilm and pop the pan in the oven so I could go do my thang. Potatoes and chix were crispy and delish, with plenty of garlic kick. My only quibble was the extreme sourness of the lemons, and you know I'm a lemon-lover. These were toothsuckin' bitter. Salad gave us all the joys of crunch and creaminess with a touch of sweetfire sugar.

HE SAYS: It's been a relative while since we experienced the lemony power of this dish.
Perhaps this is the last one of 2008 but I'm still digging it with lots of tartness and savoury goodness – roll on 2009. As per usual the beetroot in the salad was on fire with its overall sweetness 'n' deliciousness.

21.12.08: White bnz with chorizo and rocket

She stirred some butterbnz and rocket into some sizzling chorizo, served it atop some brown/red/wild rice, and shored up the leftover cucumber salad with some watercress.

HE SAYS: I thought the butterbnz were as creamy as usual and the chorizo managed to up the yum factor as it can't help but do. The second installment of cuke salad improved with the extra marinating time, too.

SHE SAYS: Both as tasty as ever. Chorizo is cheatin', but who cares? The sage, oregano and thyme didn't hurt, either. The rocket gave it the bnz a mildly bitter snap, providing a welcome contrast to the deep savouriness. Salad was perky: sharp and crisp, none the worse for its sleepover in the fridge.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

20.12.08: Red Thai prawn curry and extras

He rather outdid Himself preparing the vittles for our xmastime gathering with Samski. After some he-made smoked salmon, soft cheese and herbed oatcake canapes sprinkled with dill (not pictured, sadly), He stirred up the can't-miss red prawn and mango curry, adding baby sweetcorn for good measure. Our new fave cucumber salad by way of the Ottlolenghi cookbook made a star turn, and He even sought out a spankin' new sophisticated dessert recipe: balsamic pears in honey sauce with goat cheese.

SHE SAYS: It wasn't until Samski arrived that we realised we've actually plied her with Nigella's curry wonder before. No matter, this particularly well-balanced batch was heartily enjoyed by all: heat, coconut and heft did a get-down dance of happiness on my tongue. The cuke salad supplied crunch and sweet-tart excellence, tho' I was slightly disappointed with the accidental substitution of black onion seeds for poppyseeds. The pert dessert of baked pears delivered wide-eyed delight in a sticky sauce and subtle goaty goodness; was wiping finger 'round plate to mop up the honey trail for some time. Hey we're among friends, here. And how.

hey there, sweet tang: balsamic pears with goat cheese and honey sauce
HE SAYS: I thought this batch of curry was very good. I used double the amount of the prawns which really made it a lot more decadent and shpecial compared to our regular weeknight version. I also used a whole can of coconut milk which added a more silky broth to the bowl. The cuke salad again impressed with it's vinegar pickle like quality and its shweet yet spicy dressing. I made a bit of a boo-boo with the inclusion of the onion seeds but I didn't think they were too offensive. The pud was great. I was craving some stewed pears, and baking them created that warm, soft, intense flava I was after. The balsamic mixed so well with the cheese and honey, satisfying all my taste senses, I will have to make this again sometime soon that is fo' sure.

19.12.08: Out to Ground

He joined Her for drinks at her company xmas 'do, and, 3 hours later, They cast about for some post-festivity sustenance. The Ground gourmet burger restaurant answered the challenge with cheeseburgers for Both, courgette chips for Her and regular chips for Him. An insouciantly plain salad of cuke, tomato and leaves did its best to strike a note of health amid the indulgence.

HE SAYS: This was a satisfying burger experience with my new beef eating buddy. The meat was good, the bun not too air-puffed or soggy and the chips were hot, salty and crunchy. What more could you want? A salad perhaps? Yes, that was plain but fresh-tasting, but what else? Okay, stealing a handful of Her courgette chips made it perfect.

SHE SAYS: I thoroughly enjoyed testing out my newfound beefeating gambit once again with this excellent example of the humble hamburger. Unlike many of its competitors, Ground has not seen fit to drown its patties in chutneys, relishes and soppy sauces. My cheeseburger had a thin slice of melty white cheddar and a dab of mayo here and there - just enough to help things slip 'n' slide happily down. The courgette chips were tempura-battered, pepper-speckled, fresh-hot, and gone real quick. Overall, a much better service experience than the first time over a year ago, when we waited for ages in a half-empty restaurant.

18.12.08: BBQ pork loin with roasted butternut squash and red cabbage

Colour me winter: He finally dared to open our treasured bottle o' bbq sauce from The Salt Lick, marinating a pork loin that He roasted and basted with care. Also getting the over treatment was a butternut squash brushed with maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. A plain salad of mixed contintental leaves peered at the main plate with interest.

SHE SAYS: Oh my, I'd forgotten how this thin, sweetly seasoned sauce can tickle the tastebuds - expertly and with feelin'. Pork was the perfect vehicle, and this configuration tenderly did the sauce proud. Still marvelling at the soft magic of butternut, somehow so much more satisfyng than sweet potato. The red cabbage was divinely tart, as expected, and the whole ensemble made a feast for the eyes.

HE SAYS: I was tempted to get a couple of racks of ribs at the store instead of the loin. I'm glad I decided not to as this came out so, so good and although the ribs may have been more authentic (in a Texas cookout styley) they probably would've yielded less meat and more fussing about. I slow-cooked the pork for about 2.5hrs, letting it get all buttery in texture. The butternut squash was cooked with just a drizzle of maple syrup so wasn't overpoweringly shweet. This meal is definitely a late entry for meal o' the year, probably not winning against this one, though.

17.12.08: Pesto and pea risotto

A night out to see the Boosh initiated an early dinner. He prepared the risotto with some of the pesto He made and froze earlier, and added the usual suspects to make the risotto dream a reality. A mixed leaf salad with sweetfire beetroot, radishes and avo stopped by for a chat.

HE SAYS: Instead of the alternative of grabbing a bite and running to catch a train, this meal was a lot more civilised and tasty. If only I could get the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot it would be the perfect no-fuss, easy meal and light washing up deal everyone can enjoy. I ended up soaking the pan overnight, which did the trick of lifting the remnants of the night before. The return of the shweetfire variety of beetroot was a pleasant addition to the salad, not unlike an old friend you haven't seen in a while, popping round for a cuppa.

SHE SAYS: Certainly more of a gourmet turnout than I was expecting before embarking on our 45-min journey to the zooniverse of the Boosh. Lots of meaty porcini added delicate flava to the savoury pesto richness. My only quibble was the speed of consumption, which delivered too much to my tummy too soon.

16.12.08: Chickpeas with cumin and sherry

Wearied by a ridiculous pre-xmas work sched, she turned to our fave chickpea recipe for ease and comfort, topping it off by boiling an egg and placing it neatly on top, next to the dollop of ho-made harissa. A pear, avo and mulled wine spiced beetroot salad saddled up for the ride.

SHE SAYS: A pretty good batch, if I do say so myself. Sometimes I let the cumin seeds cook a little too long, but this time they were perfectly toasty, without that slight bitter taste of blackening. I'm liking the holiday beetroot with its heavy-on-the-allspice m.o., and vote to make it our exclusive beetroot add-on for the season.

HE SAYS: The homemade harissa and boiled egg do a perfect job of elevating the flavas of this dish beyond what you would expect, adding an exotic saltiness and creamalicious element to the proceedings. The mix of the avo, pear and limited-edition beetroot satisfied all my salad fixin' tasty requirements too.

15.12.08: Pollo alla Cacciatora and mixed leaf salad

Tonite's instalment of the Cacciatora adventures included the carrot from the last episode plus a new variety of spelt (this time from a can). A mixed leaf salad made its presence felt.

HE SAYS: Yummy as always, this dish has yet to jump the shark. I nearly forgot to add the capers but She reminded me at the last second. The canned variety of spelt was still a good, lighter alternative to the usual rice and quicker to cook to boot.

SHE SAYS: Much the same review here, though I don't necessarily think spelt is lighter. I think it's heavier in texture, much like barley, but lighter on the digestive plumbing somehow, and more modest in flavour. The canned variety appears to retain its hull, and is pleasingly al dente - almost bouncy! Overall, I look fwd to this meal in the same way I look fwd to lemon chicken: I just know it's going to be extremely tasty, soothing and hearty.

14.12.08: Festive finger food

It was time to put up the tree, so We decided to get festive and picked up some nibbles to eat while putting up the baubles. Waitrose supplied the treats: mini salmon cakes with chili, garlic and ginger dip; pigs in blankets; mini pancakes (blinis) with soft cheese and basil plus smoked salmon; pumpkin seed and soft cheese smoked salmon canapes; and some low fat crinkle crisps for good measure. Some mulled wine help things go down easy.

SHE SAYS: This was fun, but a bit too rich in the end. I think the nibbles route should stay simple from now on: doubling the pigs in blankets and the amount of crisps would have been good enough. The blinis suffered from bitter-basil syndrome so typical of any store-bought item with pesto in it, and I found the pumpkin thingies a little icky - seeds, cream cheese and salmon combined blew out my fun-fat receptors. Still ate my share, it must be said. Best discovery: Waitrose low-fat crinkle crisps are full of nummy fresh-tater flavour and carry just enough salt to satisfy.

HE SAYS: These treats weren't bad, in fact some were more then okay. I augmented most with the chili and ginger dip that came with the salmon cakes, making them all a little bit more shpesh. Pigs in their bacon blankets were obviously the highlight. The tree looked very good, by the way.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

13.12.08: Quorn, red cabbage and roast potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes

She cooked, warmed up and put together the plate tonight, consisting of the first batch of the annual red cabbage He made earlier in the week, Quorn lemon-pepper escalopes, and plain-jane green salad. For a party commitment's sake, He was unable to sample the delights of the roast potato, Jerusalem artichoke, lemon, tomato and kalamata olives dish from the new bible. Fortunately, She did the taste test and sampled the goods in His absence.

some seriously roasty potatoes with Jerusalem artichokes, lemon and sage
HE SAYS: It was good to taste the fruits of my heavy labour, cooking the massive amount of red cabbage that I prepared last week (5 hr cooking time, which, in the process, stunk out the place and probably the neighbour's gaff too). It turned out pretty perfectly, with a good balance of shweet and tart. I had to nip to a xmas party of my own so didn't get to taste the potato and Jerusalem artichoke bake (our oven sucks and it took a little while to bake to perfection but subsequently I have sampled its wonderment). The quorn did its job of being a mild, crispy foil to the extreme tastes of the cabbage. The salad was relieved not to compete for attention and was quite happy to act as garnish for a change.

Her dainty sampling of the gourmet vegan veg
SHE SAYS: Don't cry for me, all-two-readers: after we hastily downed our basic dish of tart cabbage and crispiness, I settled down to a chicks-only dvd and, eventually, a small, hot bowl of the incredible potato-J. artichoke-lemon-olive etc bake. Oh my. Jerusalem artichokes are the undiscovered country of subtle gourmet flavour. Those blandly unappealing raw slices transmogrify into something that feels like potato but tastes like fresh, grass-green artichoke. The acidity of the lemon, tomatoes, and olive brine didn't hurt, but I think the J-arts are in a league of their own as veg. Watch this space!

Not to give short shrift to the first red cabbage enjoyment of the season. It had the magic balance of sweet to tart to spice, and I wouldn't have minded some more (only 8 containers left).

12.12.08: Out to Mango room

Her char-grilled pork loin overwhelmed by a jerk of a sauce
To celebrate His bro's birthday, He, She, and His mum and bro convened at the Caribbean- infused Mango room restaurant in Camden. She had the char-grilled pork loin with jerk sauce, while He settled for char-grilled chicken, also with jerk sauce . A plate of mixed leaf salad and two bowls of rice 'n' peas showed their support.

His char-grilled chicken steps into a puddle of jerk
SHE SAYS: Once the din from the Annual Convention of Rip-Roarin' Restaurant Shouters and Hooters died down (upon their departure), I rather enjoyed my sweet and mildly smokey pork plate. The pork was a bit fatty, and the sauce thinner and more sugary than I would prefer, but t was altogether satisfying. The rice and peas were v dry and unappetising, but I put a few down my neck for filler. The salad was a tangy, garlicky surprise, and the bro and I concurred it was one of the best things on the table.

The peas resting in their desert of rice
HE SAYS: Usually this place is a little more low-key in atmosphere, but, being the staff xmas party season, it was brimming with office workers determined to have a good time. This translates to drinking as much as possible and generally trying to be the most loud and obnoxious person in the place. Thus, this was not a good start to our meal.

After a half-hour wait for the table I had booked, We were finally seated. Since We have been to this place a couple of times before, We knew what to expect foodwise and what to order. The jerk sauce in my opinion is pretty good, not too-too shweet and has a subtle hot kick to it. The chicken was tender and not at all dry, unlike the rice and peas, which were a desert of sandy blandness. The salad was a surprising high point, more yummy then a plain mixed leaf salad would have you believe. Must've been the special sauce.

The green salad makes its presence felt
The rowdy tables of drunk revellers left halfway through Our meal, so things ended up on a high note, or perhaps a quiet one at least. Everyone seemed rather satisfied with the meal, which acted as a rehearsal dinner for Our Xmas Day truncated-family festivities.

Friday, 12 December 2008

11.12.08: Tagine redux plus pizza night out

Another night apart, 'tis the season. She partied with work colleagues, tasting wine and eating pizza while He warmed up the rest of the tagine and put together a salad of carrot, avo and the mulled wine spiced beetroot.

HE SAYS: I was sad to be eating alone but very happy to be having a second crack at the delish tagine. The flavas had intensified and matured somewhat in the 24 hours it had to chill out, mellow and get to know its fridge buddies a little better. The salad was pretty pedestrian (apart from the beetroot) but I dressed it with some chilli infused olive oil to bring it to life, which it did effortlessly.

SHE SAYS: Truly, I would rather have snuggled up to some seconds of the tagine tonite, but my extra portion will wait for a luxurious lunchtime tomorrow. The wine-tasting thingy added some techical terms to my noggin, confirmed how much I hate Chardonnay, and revealed at least one very interesting orange-blossomy German white I would have loved to sip slowly at home among friends.

The subsequent Thames-side stroll to Gourmet Pizza was less rewarding; this appears to be Pizza Exrpess' riverside cousin. (Of a certainty, they share the same dough-ball-and-garlic- margarine supplier.) My mushroom pizza with spicy chorizo add-on was a minor cut above the normal P.E. offering, though just as impossible to pick up without slice failure (toppings sliding off the soggy paper 'crust'). Still, it gets points for the sauce being less sweet and the toppings less stingy. And everyone was quite well-fed and libationed. Not to sound like a party-pooper, b/c the whole evening was nicely arranged...I've just been spending too much time at work or fretting about it to fully enjoy a colleague outing where the food was not outstanding.

10.12.08: Lamb tagine with carrot, avo and preserved lemon salad

He rolled up His sleeves and set to work creating this winter fave of lamb tagine served over couscous. A chopped half of a preserved lemon made a special appearance in the salad along with its friends the avo and friendly carrot.

SHE SAYS: What a huge treat to come home to on a Wed. nite. I sank into my bowl like a bath. The deep mingling of spice and tomato and honey on my tongue was somehow soothing and exciting at the same time, while the lamb fell apart the minute We looked at it, let alone approached with fork. Given all this savoury bliss, I was slightly wary about the added intensity of preserved lemon lurking among the leaves and shreds, but the appropriately small bits of translucent whole lemon resulted in tastebud intrigue, not overkill. Even so, I do think my near-year-old lemon that's left is approaching ammonia level...must find new applications for the remains and start another batch.

HE SAYS: I was very pleased with the outcome of this tonight. I went strictly by the recipe for the spice quantities and, gasp, it worked out well. The lamb was so very tender and butter-like in consistency and all the dried fruit, moist and flavoursome. It's a bit of a to-do getting this one to the table but definitely worth the prep. It tastes like you should feel guilty but fear not, this is a very healthy dish. Dried fruit, tomato juice, naked couscous, no butter, just olive oil and lean lamb chunks make for an indulgent tasting, satisfying bowl.

And wow, the preserved lemons were still okay after about 9 months or so (though slightly more grey then yellow), in fact more intense tasting and so extremely salty. They were like a vegetarian anchovy addition to the salad.

09.12.08: Blk bnz and carrot and beetroot salad

She conjured up another dose of blk bnz wonderment, serving it over polenta with added sweetcorn and a mound of avo. The mixed leaf salad kept things simple by offering julienned carrots and some mulled wine-spiced beetroot to the party.

HE SAYS: No complaints from Me about repetition. This batch was as herby and morish as the first time She made them. The sweetcorn helped out the polenta a bit on taste intensity and the avo contributed to the creamy texture factor. Oooh, I luv me some silky smooth, black-skinned legumes, I swear they get my pulses up! The slivers of carrot were so fine in the salad, the beetroot had to up its game to stay in the super salad bowl, that's fo' sure.

SHE SAYS: It's been long enough since I last made the bnz that I actually had to look up my own recipe, but I'm glad I did. Good balance of heat to herb, especially. Only 'enh' factor was the polenta, which could not be coaxed out of a somewhat watery state. Carrot and beetroot partnership was much more harmonious for me than last nite's salad pairing - sweet strips lashing across the allspice tartness, oh my...

08.12.08: Nigella's red prawn and mango curry with a tomato and beetroot salad

Deja-who? He decided on a quick 'n' easy one to put together tonight: Nigella's curry which included all the usual good stuff plus some baby corn, too. A new seasonal, mulled wine (or Glögg to Our Nordic readers)-infused beetroot plus tomato relaxed and took it easy on top of some watercress salad.

SHE SAYS: This was a really good batch - not too fish-saucy, and the prawns were nice and tender, with just enough bite. A little heavy on the curry paste, and too spicy for my delicate constitution, but v tasty and satisfying. Baby corn was a decent add-on, though not something I'd go out of my way for in future. Agree with Him the seasonal beetroot was delish, though I'm not a fan of the tomato-beetroot combo.

HE SAYS: It was as good as ever, you can't go wrong with this one (well maybe if you add too much red curry paste, which didn't happen here thankfully). The baby corn cooked a little too much and didn't add much apart from bulk. I'm enjoying the new beetroot in the salad a lot, the mulled wine spices perking things up in the salad bowl, ooh yeah.

Monday, 8 December 2008

07.12.08: Fusion broth with fruity salad

Just the ticket for a sniffly Sunday: He pulled together the fusion broth with dry-grilled chicken, rice noodles, and Chinese greens. Salad of tomato, watercress, pear, pomegranate and avo looked on.

HE SAYS: The broth was a little on the spicy side (I think some stray shreds of chili got in the pot as it was cookin'). Good thing it had loads of ginger which made it still fragrant and light. I especially enjoyed the addition of the baby corn, which added a crunchy element to each mouthful. The salad was a shweet affair, maybe too shweet. An experiment with salad fixin' combinations gone too far, perhaps?

SHE SAYS: The chicken was perfecto, but the broth was way too spicy for a fragile throat - I normally prize this dish for its mild nourishment. Still pretty good and I did spoon up my fair share. Could be I was just in a sickie mood all-round, but the salad seemed a bit damp with too many ingredients (not a fan of pear and tomato mixin').

Sunday, 7 December 2008

06.12.08: Magic lentils redux plus meatball pasta bake

Her leftover magic lentils casting a spell over the salad
By a twist of fate, or perhaps a hole in the space time continuum, He and She were home together but ate different meals. She indulged in the leftover lentils from the nite before while He overindulged in a beef and pork meatball penne pasta bake from Waitrose. In a mark of defiance, They shared the same salad of mixed leaves, beetroot, avo, tomato, carrot and a special guest star - baked butternut squash seeds.

SHE SAYS: A few shakes of hot sauce and I was set to be satisfied. I was even looking forward to these leftovers, as I have a stinkin' cold, and this sort of thing, with its unobtrusive flava and soft textures, goes down easy when you're feeling poorly. Unexpectedly, I also craved the salad once I chewed a radish or two. Normally I don't want anything cold and moist when my throat is sore and my nose is stuffed up, but I went back for greedy scoops of the green and purple and pink. The seeds were ok, not my crunchiest batch ever despite plenty of toasting time, and a little more strongly squash-flavoured than I would like.

His cheesy meatball pasta bake threatening the dainty veggies
HE SAYS: A little overindulgent on the pasta bake, methinks. The colour was a few shades short of being fluorescent orange and the sauce was a little on the shweet side for my taste. But, it was very tasty despite these minor quibbles. The meatballs were the main attraction, I haven't had any such things in a long time, I think I may have been missing out 'cause these were only store bought but still Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (and bountiful). The cheese quota didn't hurt either. The salad I feel was healthy and virtuous enough to not only ward off the evilness of the bake but also reverse its effects on my colon – that's my story, anyway.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

05.12.08: Magic lentils with beetroot, radish and avo salad

They both had cravings for some vegan comfort food, and voila! This family fave was rolled out by Her once more, to great applause. A mixed leaf salad of avo, radishes and sweetfire beetroot crept into shot.

HE SAYS: The magic in the lentils tonight was not as powerful as previous go rounds. I suspect it could have been the cheapo coconut milk I picked up at the store. The spice factor was a little subdued and there was a subtle "playdough" type tang to the bowl that was either emanating from the coconut milk or a made-up mental tic going 'round my mind. Still, a merely okay magic lentils dish is still a better-than-average meal compared to some average meals of some average people. The sweet, peppery and crunchy combination of the beetroot and radishes in the salad again managed to cause a stir in salad fixin' community. The avo was a little miffed.

SHE SAYS: Mostly agree with him – this was not a stellar batch, but I'm not sure the coconut milk was at fault. Possibly it was the aged curry powder (We're onto a new box next time), or the broth was a bit weak. I didn't detect the strange tang He did, but I won't quibble – it was all a little off. Texture still shone through for its contrast of creaminess vs the sweet and slightly firm onion bits.

Friday, 5 December 2008

04.12.08: Spelt penne pesto pasta

He baked a butternut squash beforehand and defrosted some pesto. She cooked it all up with some portobello mushrooms and thus re-created a squash and mushroom, pesto, spelt penne pasta extravaganza. The bnz and hazelnut salad from last night nuzzled up beside it.

SHE SAYS: Meh. It was ok. The squash mushed up in the pan and didn't exactly stir my appetite. To be fair, I had come home and devoured more smoked salmon than was wise, straight out of the pack, so I really wasn't hungry. The pesto was as deeply delightful as always but I could only toy with my fork and look forward to a speshy lunch. The salad was another overnite champion, staying fresh and crunchy, so I added it to my lunchbox for the next day with quiet anticipation.

HE SAYS: Not the prettiest pasta dish She has ever made but pretty tasty nonetheless. The squash was baked with just olive oil and salt n' pepper allowing, the natural sweetness to come thru and mix with the savouriness of the pesto nicely. The spelt pasta was definitely less heavy on my tum then the usual white variety, and, coupled with the bnz salad, made for delish and healthy grub.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

03.12.08: Squid risotto with French bnz and mangetout

Eager to expand Their risotto repertoire, He tried out the "easy squid risotto with fresh tomato and parsley" recipe card picked up at the local Waitrose. The French bean and mangetout with hazelnut and orange zest side salad was nabbed from Our new best friend.

HE SAYS: I'm pretty impressed with this new risotto. A very different dish to our regular pesto variety, with far more subtle flavours and subtle overtones. I deviated from the recipe a lot, adding white wine, far more fish stock and more tomatoes. I also cooked the base risotto like the one We usually cook (much faster, and easier to check levels of doneness and add more liquid if necessary) and not by their silly baking method.

The salad was nice and zesty, crunchy and obviously nutty, with the roasted hazelnuts adding intense toasty intrigue to the mix. The orange zest was a little too intermittent in adding citrus so I squeezed half of the orange over the bnz, which helped. The recipe called for hazelnut oil, but I substituted peanut oil and it seemed to work just as well. Overall, a great meal but perhaps less of a winter warmer than is needed with the cold coming in.

SHE SAYS: This has got to be the healthiest indulgence ever, this here risotto. Squid done right always has a slightly sweet taste, but grilled and piled into creamy risotto tinged with tomato acidity, its humble flavour offering develops moreish complexity. He did a great job in deviating from the recipe - not sure this would be quite such a winner without the wine and extra stock, as the flavour was still v. light.

The salad was positively gourmet, with mangetout and green bnz matching crisp to crunch with the roasty hazelnuts (I couldn't stop picking them out of the bowl).

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

02.12.08: Pizzas n' burgers

She had to work late so they went their separate ways for dinner tonight. She was stuck eating office pizza with co-workers while He ate at home. His plate consisted of two burgers with melted mature cheddar and English mustard mayonnaise on toasted green olive ciabattas. An M&S edamame soya bean salad with chili and coriander dressing rounded His plate off nicely.

SHE SAYS: Sorry folks, I just couldn't bring myself to explain to 1/3 of the office why I would take pics of the dreaded Pizza Express pies in their greasy boxes. Actually, I was starving, so it didn't seem as offensive as usual; the sausage and pepperoncini pizza stood out slightly above the rest, which do not deserve mention. I also sampled a bit of the mediocre dough balls that came with cups of garlic margarine, holding out faint hope...but enh. Anyway, it sustained me thru a mildly entertaining evening of sewing up Uglydoll-like xmas pressies for our clients. Had I known what He was having for din-dins, I might have held out.

HE SAYS: I swear, I wasn't trying to make Her jealous or miss out on Her new appreciation of all things meaty, but it just so happened I fancied a burger while she was out. The mayonnaise was frisky with the English mustard addition and helped to moisten the bites of the crusty ciabattas – which, by the way, were also M&S and also tasty. The salad was a crunchy affair and was helped out by the great dressing, which was all things shweet n' spicy.

01.12.08: Pollo alla Cacciatora and cucumber salad

They both craved it, and He made it so. Tonight's Cacciatora episode included a special guest appearance of sliced carrot, and, instead of rice, pearled spelt. The cucumber salad was in reruns from last night and, because of its popularity, destined for syndication.

HE SAYS: Apart from the added carrot which gave it a little more depth of flava and the spelt, which lightened up the bowl, things were consistent from the previous outings. Those outings were great and so was this one. The salad scored high marks too, the dressing having marinated the cucumbers a little more from last night.

The mere mention of this dish perks me up; it's positively Pavlovian. I thought the carrot a fine addition for bulk, but could easily do without. The spelt added a smooth barley-like texture to the saucy bowl of goodness. I did find myself sneaking more capers from the jar for a touch of vinegary contrast, but I always do that, just don't always mention it. The salad held up well overnight; I thought the coriander might have sogged out, but it didn't.

Top Tip: pour off the dressing into a separate bowl before storing for laters.

Top Tip Deux: there is no way this dressing needs 2 Tbs of poppy seeds, they just sink to the bottom of lots of liquid. What a waste, esp in a land where they are the devil to find. Would do one teaspoon next time.

Monday, 1 December 2008

30.11.08: Channa masala and cucumber & poppyseed salad

She took a hint and tried out this channa masala recipe b/c it seemed so easy and eager to please. The debut recipe from our spankin' new Ottolenghi cookbook, cucumber and poppyseed salad, also took a pretty, chili-topped bow.

SHE SAYS: I'm pretty disappointed in this channa attempt, tho' it's probably my own fault for being shy about doubling spices when doubling the chickpea count. (I went for half again, and then nearly triple garam masla at the end upon tasting). The spices simply vanished along the way, leaving me with a pile of velvety but fairly bland chickpeas to spoon thru. Also, I find the high-heat cooking time too long for the spice/onion mix; mine simply started burning. I rescued it more or less in time, but still. The cucumber salad perked me up somewhat with its pickledy sweet-n-sour kick and delicate crunch of both cuke and blue poppyseed.

HE SAYS: I think I was less disappointed in this batch of chickpeas then Her. I enjoyed the spice quota, pretty much
, although the garam masala was a little overpowering. I added some homemade tomato chutney to mine which livened it up with a juicy, slightly sweet and tangy element. The cucumber salad was a great fresh and vinegary opponent and a fantastic introduction to a book which I think we'll be using a lot in the near future.

29.11.08: Party food

Deadly elderflower martinis
We're lucky in Our friends. One luvvly couple turned 40 this year - one in June, and one this weekend - and they both had the good grace to throw a swell booze-up and invite all their pals. Their last party had Us primed and ready for a smashin' nite out, and in that we were not disappointed.

Sticky wings
A selection of spesh cocktails were shaken and stirred all nite long, while party treats were promptly popped in 'n' out the oven by the brave hired help. (Brave, We say, b/c there was a small mob of greedy folk (Us included) waiting to pounce every time they put on an oven mitt.)

Hot hot hot: mini pizzas
HE SAYS: It may of been considered rude to hover over the servers in the kitchen waiting for hot and tasty treats to emerge from the oven but We did anyway. The mini pizzas were good and fulfilled their role of quenching my alcohol-induced munchies until the next plate emerged. I also enjoyed the wings and especially the 'tater skins, which were light on the load but thankfully heavy on the bacon.
The even hotter potato skins
SHE SAYS: I haven't had a baco-tater skin since my last trip to Fridays, which is beyond my immediate recall, and I rather guiltily enjoyed this pipin' hot reminder. I think the sweet sticky wings were the best, but I only managed to snag one such morsel. Mini pizzas were just what you expect, and I palmed one at every opportunity.

Divine strawberry cream cake
The cake was the real standout here: incredibly fresh strawberries and cream nestled in a light sponge draped with marzipan. It was like the ultimate strawberry shortcake slice, not too sweet ,and perfectly moist. (I had two. That's all I'm admitting to, anyway.) Overall I was a little underfed, but well-libationed, downing rather more than my fair share of elderflower martinis. Va-va-voom!