Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cutting the mustard

Away from a world of restaurants, life on the culinary home front continues to please and frustrate in pretty much equal measure.

The frustration part is largely because I still struggle to think of varied meals for midweek eating that will please both me and The Other Half. This, I assure you, is no easy feat. Well, just consider, if you can, the impact of The Other Half's aversion to cheese and you'll see what I mean.

So on Monday, I opted for plain pork sausages with puréed potato, and leek and courgette – which allowed me to finally open up one of George's mustards and let it tickle my tastebuds. This was the apricot mustard – and very good it is too: fruity, with a nicely developing heat. There'll be no problem finishing off the jar.

In case I haven't already, I'll take the opportunity to point you in this direction, where you can find out more.

And indeed, this is as good an opportunity as any other to also point you toward The Coven in Wigan, which is using George's tracklements – and has the sort of food philosophy that I appreciate.

They're also committed to a project in Wigan aimed at boosting small, independent local businesses in the old quarter of the town – an issue that regular readers of this blog will know I get quite hot under the proverbial collar about too.

Yesterday was not really a foodie day – well, not by the time I'd done a shift in the staff bar, where volunteer bar persons are rewarded by being able to play the music of their choice, and an understanding that, when someone buys a round, said volunteer get a free drink. It's our version of the Big Society. Hick!

Tonight, The Other Half and I had finally committed ourselves to a study session, having both decided to take an Open University French beginners' course.

We worked for almost an hour – a productive time – he with a mug of tea and me with a Man City mug full of Bovril: very sophisticated. Then it was time for dinner.

Neither of us had eaten much during the day: I breakfasted on porridge with honey, plus a camomile tea and a mince pie from Pret, served by a charming young lady who I could swear was flirting with me as she complimented my hairdo and then expressed astonishment that I dyed it because I'd started finding white hairs a decade ago.

My constant horror at what is served up in the canteen reached a new high with today's lunch menu, which was topped by 'cottage pie served with rice and onion salad'.

Stop it. Just stop it. The Other Half rolls his eyes at the canteen's usual accompaniment for cottage pie of carrots and baked beans. But at least the former is not out of place.

There's nowt wrong with cottage pie, and it needs no accompaniment – just cook with peas in it and possibly some diced carrot. There'll be onion there anyway, so it's hardly devoid of vegetables. You don't serve something that is topped with a form of starchy carb with a salad made up of another starchy carb.

We each had Pret soup.

So you can imagine that I was rather hungry this evening. Having done our studying, I rustled up a little brain food as a restorative. I'd marinaded some salmon fillets in a mixture of tomato purée, dried chili, olive oil and the light balsamic vinegar I use for dipping bread. The fish was then cooked very gently in a lidded sauté pan, with the marinade, so that it largely steamed.

Basmati rice was boiled and, for side vegetables,the remains of an unfinished courgette, about half a large leek and a medium carrot were thickly sliced and popped into a saucepan with some melted butter and olive oil. Put a lid on and shake vigorously, then turn the heat right down and give it at least 10 minutes, Again, it steams. I seasoned with some of George's celery salt.

That was quite pleasing. Hardly culinary rocket science, but something a little beyond a portion each of starch, protein and veg neatly arranged in compartmentalised fashion around a plate. And that has been another of my midweek frustrations, but gradually it seems that I'm finding ways of getting beyond that at least a little.

Living is learning, they say – and cooking certainly is!

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