Reduce. My lovely tarte tatin, which was so going to impress our French dinner guest, was reduced to a cinder. I'd popped it in the oven as we sat down to eat and what with the lively conversation and the wine (with a backdrop of hyperactive toddler) I completely forgot to go back and check it 15 minutes later. Because I'd shut the kitchen door, the acrid smell of burnt sugar didn't reach me until it was too late, far too late. There was a time when I would have been devastated by such a disaster. But I'm 40 now and can roll with the punches. I announced cheerfully to the dinner guests, "Dessert's burned - I hope you don't mind filling up on salad and cheese!"
Recycle. A small bit of the pastry I'd made for the tarte tatin, slightly larger than a hen's egg, remained in the fridge. I rolled it out as thinly as I could.
Reuse. I carefully lifted the thin crust onto a small earthenware dish I found in the back of the cupboard. Amazingly, this lovely little dish came with a frozen dinner I bought some months ago. I was trying to get the toddler to branch out a bit culinarily and so bought a frozen gratin de choux fleurs (cauliflower gratin). He turned up his nose but I thought it was tasty. And I loved the dish. So much so that I bought another so I would have a set of two. (Must remember to stock up on frozen dinners...)
I peeled, quartered and chopped a couple of apples and tossed them with two small spoonfuls of flour and two small spoonfuls of sugar. Then I added a small handful of dried currents (no raisins to hand, alas) and a few dried blueberries. As you can see, there wasn't quite enough dough to cover the little makeshift tart. But there was enough tart for two for a little after-dinner treat. I don't often make dessert (well, you can see why, what with the burnt disaster that started this story). So the Critic and I enjoyed it all the more for the fact that it was a rare treat. And particularly good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum.
I've been reading Barbara's posts over at Tigers and Strawberries with extreme envy lately. I seem to have missed the boat in getting our Toddler to eat adult food. Maybe he would have been this picky even if I had introduced him to curries and spicy sausages at an earlier age. Then again, maybe he's just inherited his father's food conservatism. Whatever the reason, he's very suspicious of new foods and in particular anything that his mother tells him is really tasty. Last year I had just about despaired of getting him to try fresh peaches when he finally smelled a particularly juicy sweet one I was eating myself and demanded a bite. The secret, it appears, is never to seem to suggest he try something new. He has to come up with the idea himself.
So when I served him a lovely plate of fluffy mashed potatoes, sausages and warm sauteed apples and onions I wasn't actually expecting him to gobble it up and ask for more. I hoped he'd try each of the elements. And perhaps remember they weren't that bad. And accept them next time. Sure enough, he tasted the apple and made a face. Ate one piece of sausage and rejected the rest. And had his usual typical dinner of cheese, buttered toast fingers, chunks of cucumber and banana for dessert. The next day, he agreed to eat an entire leftover sausage, but again rejected the (delicious) buttery apple.
On a more positive note, the Critic and I enjoyed our portions enormously. And Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say - I still have hopes of seeing the entire family eat the same meal at the same time one day. Of course by the time they are all willing to eat the same meal, the boys will probably be scattered to the four winds with football practice and music lessons and sleepovers and whatever else growing boys can find to amuse themselves...
Sausage and Mash for the Whole Family
I adapted this recipe from one in Nigel Slater's appropriately named Real Good Food. The main change I made was a practical one: cooking all the elements in the same pan to save washing up. I am both lazy and environmentally conscientious. I also have, on occasion, thrown a small handful of thyme leaves into the sauce with great results. This time I kept it simple in the hopes the Toddler would like it.
2-4 sausages per person (I used some herb chipolatas from our local Franprix, though English sausages are even nicer - especially the ones with apple in them)
2-3 potatoes per person
1 small apple per person
1 onion per person
1 Tbs crème fraîche per person
optional: a few sprigs of thyme
milk and butter to taste for the mashed potatoes
salt and pepper
Peel and chop the potatoes and set them to boil in salted water.
I usually grill sausages so that the fat drains away and they are (slightly) less unhealthy, but in this case the fat adds to the overall flavour so into the pan they go. You can add a smidgeon of butter first to keep them from sticking to the pan, but if your sausages are fatty you probably won't need it. While they start sizzling, start slicing the onions in half rounds (or rounds - as mentioned, I'm lazy and the halves are easier to slice quickly). Wash and quarter your apples, cut out the cores and cut each quarter in half. While you are preparing the apples and onions, keep an eye on the sausages, turning them from time to time. When the sausages are brown and glistening on all sides, remove them to a plate and keep them in a warm oven while you finish the dish.
Drain all the fat from the pan and then add a pat of butter. Throw in the onions and a pinch of salt and cook over a fairly high flame. Once they start to soften and even brown a little on the edges, add the apple slices. They will only take a few minutes to brown and soften; turn them when they do and turn down the heat.
By now your potatoes will be ready for mashing. Drain them, add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste and mash them until fluffy and delicious.
Add the crème fraîche to the apple and onion mixture, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pile mashed potatoes on each plate and then a serving of apple and onions. Top with sausages and drizzle any remaining sauce over the sausages.
You'd have to be a toddler not to like it.
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away...
There are some photos that just bring back memories of old Weight Watchers index cards or your grandmother's collection of magazine recipes. I inherited a cookbook from my Austrian Grandmother that has photos that look eerily similar to this one. And yet...this dinner was actually pretty tasty. Don't be put off by the tacky 1950s plating or the scary pink and orange color combination. Although you can't see it, the salad had zing and flavor and they didn't clash like the colors in the photo. In fact, it has a distinctly Japanese slant to it, despite the American Housewife look. Wasabi powder and soy sauce livened up what would otherwise be a pretty bland shrimp salad. The Critic gave it full thumbs up, though he's a fan of the traditional shrimp cocktail at heart. But then he'd eat just about anything if you put sufficient wasabi powder on it, poor gullible dear.
Sino-American Seafood Platter (serves 2)
The genesis of this dinner was a combination of factors: we had visited friends in the suburbs for "tea" and so were in that uncomfortable state of "not really hungry enough for a full dinner but sure to be hungry before bedtime" and we had a few seafood elements left over from a fish pie and salmon starter I'd made for dinner earlier in the week. I didn't have any horseradish to make a traditional shrimp salad and so decided to try wasabi powder instead to give it a little punch. From there it was a logical step to add sesame oil and soy sauce. The corn was added at the last minute simply because I knew it would please the Critic. He loves sweet corn, even the tinned variety.
125 grams peeled, cooked shrimp
2-3 slices salmon
15-20 thin slices of cucumber
15-20 thin slices of black radish
2-3 Tbs sweet corn
1 large tomato, chopped
2 small handfuls of salad
For the shrimp:
1 tsp wasabi, more or less, to taste
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
For the salad dressing:
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
a little lemon juice
a little salt
Place the salad on the bottom of each plate and dress it with the salad dressing. Top with the slices of cucumber and radish. If you don't like hot radishes, sprinkle them with a little salt and this will take away some of the sting. Add the salmon, shredded. If you like, you can drizzle a little lemon juice on the salmon, to take off a bit of the fishy edge. Mix the tomatoes, corn and shrimp in a small bowl with the wasabi powder and rice wine vinegar. Add to the salad. Whatever you do, avoid arranging neatly in a 1950s concentric pattern. Devour with enthusiasm.
I remember once when visiting Meg in Paris, we went to a sort of country club for Irish and British ex-pats and I shocked and horrified the assembled throng by putting hot sauce on my fries. "You can't be serious!" one of them said as I raised a lovely hot sauce soaked chip to my lips.
I was understandably surprised when I read this article today from the TimesOnline about a restaurant shut down as hazmat teams searched for the source of a chemical gas leak or possible terrorist attack in Soho in London.
The source? A batch of dry-fried Thai chiles being made into nam prik pao, a spicy Thai dipping sauce. The Brits have certainly butched up if they're eating that sort of hot food. (But then again, they did call out the hazmat squad.)