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May 2003

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Anna of the Five Towns, Arnold Bennett
May Week festivities

Friday 30th May

Real summertime salad: smoked trout and avocado... with new potatoes, hard boiled eggs, lettuce, a lemony dressing. Pretty colours, pretty flavours... subtle.

Wednesday 28th May

Well this went wrong - embarrassingly, since it should have been easy - but at least I know why. Too much pasta, not enough sauce (gluttony); cooking the veg - asparagus tips, tiny jersey royals and green beans - in the same pan as the pasta to save washing up (sloth). If I'd blanched the vegetables separately I could have then added them to the pan in which I was frying off onion, mushrooms, garlic and pesto - and if I'd bought more pesto instead of assuming my fridge was bountifully stocked (pride) - and if I'd thought the whole thing through... my pasta would still have been a jumble of genovese and primavera.

Monday 26th May

Friday night fish fry... skate with garlic/chilli chickpeas, and a tomato salad. That followed asparagus - because what else would you eat in May? - with individual blue cheese soufflés. And if it seems surprising that I would serve a meal as featherweight as white fish and beaten egg whites, you might like to try Christmas pudding ice-cream - xmas pud (yes, matured since stir-up sunday) crumbled into custard; frozen in its basin; and turned out to be covered in dark chocolate. C insisted on setting fire to most of a bottle of brandy - as festive as you can be without paper hats...

Monday 19th May

Tasty Thai curry: butternut squash in the Thai sauce I've talked about here before. Sauce was so-so after adding coconut milk until I remembered to use lime juice - much improvement. Lucky really that lime juice doesn't react with coconut cream the way we (as teenagers - revolting little sluts that we were) used to delight in it doing with Baileys cream liqeur...

Wednesday 14th May

Problem: how to make sausages - which have come up because you're defrosting the freezer - a bit more interesting, a bit more May-like, than the usual two options (with onions and lentils or mushrooms and mash), without a barbecue. Solution: roasted red pepper and onion salsa. Four red peppers, roasted in olive oil for around half and hour, with a finely sliced onion added ten minutes from the end. Tip into a bowl and cover with clingfilm while you start the sausages roasting in the same tin. Once the peppers have sweated a bit their skins will come off easily - slice and add with the onion to a finely chopped chilli and large handful of coriander. The juice and oil from the roasting mean you do not need any more liquid. We had this with cannellini beans roughly mashed with lemon juice and garlic. All very tasty.

Monday 12th May

A nice simple, summery salady Sunday supper for the end of an exhausting (fabulous, but perhaps overindulgent) weekend - not exactly an antidote to all the champagne, because, after all, who's complaining? - but a necesary step down, back to weekday life. Slices of prosciutto, buffalo mozarella, grilled baby peppers, basil and olive oil. Bellissima.

Friday 9th May

I'm going to tell you what I should have done, rather than what I did. Because in theory, Spanish cod with olives is a jolly good idea. I should have got the olive oil hotter while browning the garlic and shallots - the basis of this way of cooking is to use a lot of oil, which forms an emulsion with the white wine to make a surprisingly creamy sauce. It's a bit lethal adding cold wine to hot oil... but necessary. I should have kept the cod in two large portions rather than dicing it up, because it doesn't matter if it takes a minute or two longer to cook. I should have chopped the rosemary rather than flinging it in root and branch. I should have used less fat in the grated potatoes so that my rösti stuck together better. I should have had plain green olives. In summary: forward planning.

Tuesday 6th May

I know, I know. I'm a slacker. But before you decide that I'm the laziest, most boring blogger in the cyber kitchen, and vow to stick to Julie/Julia in future, you should know that I was at the opera every night last week. So I really didn't cook anything at all - and if you're interested in the details of my apples-biscuits-beans-on-toast diet, you're weirder than this page can cater for. Mais retournons à nos moutons: in the bank holiday baking slot we have five-spice biscuits. These are my favourite (for today anyway), not least because they are so easy. You mix sugar with equal quantities of olive oil and white wine (preferably sweet... but I have been using any old thing I have 100ml of, up to and including grappa), then add plain flour, bicarb, and your spices: I use two teaspoons of Chinese five-spice powder, sometimes with extra fennel seeds. Splodge onto a tray and bake for 15 minutes. Did you notice that they are totally vegan?