Sunday 24 March 2013

Improving Cookery Skills.

The raw North East wind is with us for another day and is cold enough to drive us inside, but at least it is dry, so we can moan about the chill but be sympathetic to those poor souls in Cork, Dublin, Northern Ireland and the UK who are contending with floods, snow and 2 days without any electricity. We retreat indoors for the most part and catch up on indoor jobs. I do a bread making marathon, making yesterday a 1 lb soda bread, a 2 lb batch of wholemeal yeast-bread and a 2 lb batch of naan breads from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe. The thought occurs to me that we are currently enjoying a huge expansion in the cookery skills  we (but mainly Liz) use round here.

We have talked about this and mainly put it down to having more time to explore methods and to practice the more fiddly, time consuming recipes. When we were in UK and both of us were working, I'd be getting up on an 04:15 alarm to be out of the house in time to be in work at 06:00 and Liz would not be back much before half five and often considerably later. We were also fairly tired after the working day so food was, to a degree 'fuel' rather than anything creative or artistic. We are both good cooks and have always believed in steering clear of ready meals and using fresh ingredients and plenty of veg so it was commonly meat and veg but usually very simple, quick dishes - grilled pork chops with boiled or steamed veg, steaks with oven chips and mushrooms, etc. We would very occasionally stray into ready meals (usually pizza) or head for the chip shop

Only at the weekends did we have the time or inclination to 'bother' with more complex stuff like kidneys done in creme fraiche or a full roast.

Only now we are here and settled in, semi-retired, do we find we have all the time in the world to explore around the types of food which we could not contemplate back in the UK. Liz has found herself buying 'Jus-rol' frozen pastry and making pies and tarts. She gets a baking 'bug' and spends afternoons making scones, fruit loaves and cakes. It is lovely, when we do get visitors, to be able to offer them more than tea and ginger biscuits. Liz also sometimes creates desserts, which is not anything we used to do - tonight's chocolate/coffee/whisky mousse being a good example. Our chickens (and soon, hopefully, our geese) sometimes have us in a glut of eggs and baking is a good way of getting through them.

We are also enjoying a different and broader range of ingredients, partly by being in Ireland where the local taste is for some fare not common in the UK, and partly by producing our own meat and dealing with entire animals. We used to buy lamb sometimes in England, but it was generally a leg or shoulder joint. Chops seemed ridiculously expensive lying there, all straggly, in their expanded polystyrene trays with their cling film. Here we have had three whole lamb carcasses to get through so we have tried out several chop recipes, as well as dealing with main joints, shanks, breast meat, hearts, kidneys and livers. The suet from around the kidneys and hearts gave us our first real try at meat 'puds' (suet crust puds). We cooked one of the young rooster chicks and have also used the hearts, livers and gizzards of both.

The shops here regularly have all the meat commonly 'forbidden', or too 'low-grade' for sale in the UK; ox tail and gammon shanks for example. The local 'Lidl' supermarket regularly has quails, pheasant, duck and goose. and sometimes frozen lobster, all at easily affordable prices. The Madhur Jaffrey book has us exploring interestingly spiced (but not fizzingly hot) Indian food and our big collection of favourite cook books is now getting taken down from the shelves and used regularly. The internet is an easy source of recipes if, for example, you suddenly have bulb fennel and you are not sure what to do with it. Tonight the bulb fennel was tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then roasted for 20 minutes before the quail were put in on top. They were as sweet as chocolate. We find ourselves regularly trying these new things and saying, 'Mmmmm - we can DEFINITELY do this one again!'.

We (mainly Liz, as I said) are thoroughly enjoying this new exploration of cookery skills and both of us are loving eating the products!

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

Your making me hungry, despite the fact that we have just had a full roast and I don't think I could eat another thing, even the cup cakes that Mrs S baked today are sitting on the side with only a couple eaten.