This week is sides…

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By , June 29, 2010 8:38 pm

I realised yesterday that apart from the fact that I haven’t been shopping this week, I also have a freezer full of food that should probably be eaten before we head of to Peru. I examined the goods, and none of it fits into the recipes I have left to cook. So not to be defeated, I realised I could work my way through the vegetables and salad recipes – genius!


Now apart from my challenge, my other new cooking passion is home made sausages (see video page for the first attempt!) So the perfect winter warmer for our first frosty morning in Oz was Toad-in-the-Hole, made with home made duck and pistachio sausages (the best yet!!!).  For my Australian readers, toad-in-the-hole does not involve bread and egg, as someone once suggested, but sausages cooked in a Yorkshire Pudding. Now I know I probably have to explain that to, but why bother when wikipedia does it for you! So if you don’t know what it is click here for the definition of Yorkshire Pudding and here for a link to Toad-in-the-Hole. If you check the link to the Toad-in-the-Hole you will notice that it is traditionally cooked in one large tray, but my family are Yorkshire Pudding addicts so I have perfected my recipe so that the ratio of crispy Yorkshire Pudding to sausage is perfect (the crispy bit is the best bit!).

Dinner is served...

So if you come to dinner at mine you get individual Yorkshire Puddings with half a sausage in the middle of each, with a sprig of rosemary (suggested by Jamie in Happy Days).

To get back to the point of this blog, the side tonight was parmesan and truffle oil mash, which doesn’t really need a recipe but it’s something else to tick off the list, and something I wouldn’t normally do. I think other options for the rest of the week will be a salad and an asparagus dish, with fish on Friday as seems to be the new tradition!

A vegetarian dish for meat eaters!

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By , June 28, 2010 9:03 pm


Tonight’s blog was going to be titled “A good way to use leftovers” but it actually turned out better than that.  I was going to have a night off Jamie, as it’s Monday and it’s usually leftovers night, but I had a good nights sleep last night (I didn’t stay up for the England game!) and a good day at work so I came home inspired to cook.  It still had to be leftovers, as I didn’t quite manage to shop yesterday after the TTW dinner dance, but I thought I’d make fresh pasta, with herbs, to tick off another recipe.  So tonight’s dish was herb pappardelle, with a porcini, thyme and tomato sauce.

The leftover element to this dish was actually pretty much all of it!  I had a tub of tomato sauce in the freezer from about day one when I made meatballs; there was mascarpone still leftover from the two dishes I made last week, which was just about edible; and there were the dregs of porcini left in the back of the cupboard that have been there for more weeks than I care to mention.

I could’ve cheated and used dry pasta, but I had a bit of time to kill and I was intrigued by the pasta variations on offer. These include herb, spinach, pepper and beetroot. With the lack of shopping done, the herb one was easy as we still have a plentiful crop in the garden. The verdict on herbs: it colours the pasta green; makes it harder to roll; and unless eating the pasta with no sauce you can’t really taste the difference.  You also can’t see the difference when you team it with tomato sauce! So it’s a good job I’m in a good mood tonight (also helped by the sparkly engagement ring and wedding ring I had re-polished today!).

So back to the title of this blog, apart from the overjoyed satisfaction I had from using up some leftovers, the sauce actually tasted like it had meat in due to the texture of the dried mushrooms, and it really was quite tasty. So I will definitely be saving this one for the day I have to entertain vegetarians whilst also having to please some die hard meat eaters!!!!

Yes, it’s pink, and it’s all mine!!!!

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By , June 27, 2010 7:47 pm

New RIng!

Graham decided to get the ball rolling early this week for our anniversary celebrations and took delivery of his new camera. So in return he decided to surprise me with an early present of a new ring! I kind of knew it was coming as I’d dropped some very heavy hints! But I wasn’t expecting it yet, which turned it into a nice surprise! Graham thought the annual TTW dinner dance was a good excuse as its not often we get dressed up.  So I wore my pink dress to go with my new pink diamond :)


The dinner dance was in the city, pretty much under the bridge at a restaurant called the Waters Edge.  We don’t need much persuading, so we thought this was a good opportunity to catch the ferry into the city. And what a beautiful winters afternoon it was. Click on the photo for a few pictures from the day (and Graham with his new watch!).

A round up of week 4…

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By , June 27, 2010 1:26 pm

Tray Baked Salmon

I’m managing to cook something from the book most days, and sometimes I even manage two dishes so I don’t mind having the odd day off. This week I’ve managed to cook two soups – one tasted great (the minestrone – p17) the other was a little unusual, but that’s the whole point of doing this experiment, to cook things I wouldn’t ordinarily try and sometimes it works out well, and I’ll definitely cook the dish again (like the tuna), and other times I have to put it down to experience. So the aubergine/egg plant soup (delete word as appropriate p19) was one to put down to experience and perhaps not do again!

There was also an African lamb curry (p111), also with aubergine, that worked out well. I would never have picked this dish, for a start there’s not even a picture! But I followed the instructions, even though I thought it was a bit strange, and it worked out really well. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this one, but I wish I had because the before and after was quite a change. Sorry Jamie, but I struggled to believe that skinned and de-seeded tomatoes with no liquid (not even any wine) would make a curry sauce, but sure enough after simmering for an hour there was a delicious curry sauce. In fact it was so good Graham polished off the leftover portion that I was planning on saving for my lunch. Graham has requested this is a “do again dish”.

Home Grown Squash

Roast Squash

There has also been a new pasta and risotto dish. I didn’t take photos of them because the photos don’t seem to be doing the dishes justice, often looking like a pile of cat sick, but they really are tasting good. The leek and mascarpone pasta was rich but tasty. Graham did the honours with this one, which was nice to have a night off! Then there was the roast butternut squash and mascarpone rissotto. The roast squash was fantastic, it really was a fitting way to cook one of the dwarf squash we have produced in the garden, but the mascarpone part was a bit rich, so next time I will be leaving out that bit and drizzling with truffle oil instead :)


Squash Tortellini

The highlight of the week so far was Saturday lunch. We were having a lazy weekend so I thought I’d make the effort to do another dessert, as these really are my weak spot. I also thought I’d treat us to some squash tortellini (p75) with the other squash from the garden! It’s funny that we get much more excited by savoury than sweet. I’ve nailed ravioli but I’ve been shying away from the tortellini as they are a bit more complicated, but now I think I’ve nailed them too, and lunch was a rip roaring success, even the steamed pudding dessert (p209). No disasters this week, just a moist, gooey chocolate pudding, yum!


So I’m nearing the end of week 4 and I’m about 45 recipes in, although that’s give or take a few recipes as I lost count whilst supervising Graham’s brunch offering of omelette, but however many I’ve done I think I’m about a third of the way through book 1. A good start and I’ve not lost enthusiasm yet!

Dad, this one’s for you!

By , June 20, 2010 9:05 pm

Jamie is taking a back seat tonight, providing the accompanying sauce and vegetables, which leaves my favourite roast for main – roast pork belly.  So Dad, as you’re always asking me how I do it, here is my step-by-step recipe.  Please note I am not a professional cook book writer so I can’t guarantee the finished product, but my roast always tastes good, and the crackling pretty much works every time :)

Step 1

Step 1: Score the the skin on the pork belly, making sure you don’t go through to the meat. Place on a cooling rack in the sink and pour a kettle of just boiled water over the skin.

Step 2

Step 2: Make the marinade/rub.  Chop two cloves of garlic and pound with a pestle and mortar with half a teaspoon of coarse sea salt and a tablespoon of fennel seeds (measurements are a guesstimate!) until you get a paste. Add some ground pepper then just enough olive oil to turn it into a paste (about a tablespoon). Rub all over the meaty part of the pork belly and leave to marinade for a couple of hours in the fridge.

Step 3: Allow the meat to come up to room temperature, pre -heat the oven to pretty much it’s highest setting, although with our oven that’s too hot, so I go for about 220 degrees Celsius.

Step 5

Step 4: Place the pork in a roasting tray, skin side up, on top of some vegetables, to prevent it touching the bottom of the tray and help form the gravy. I usually use celery, carrot, onion and garlic, but you can use whatever you’ve got in the cupboard, sometimes I only use onion if that’s all I’ve got.

Step 5: Make sure the skin of the pork is dry and sprinkle with salt to help it crisp up. Then pour some water in the base of the roasting tray, just enough to cover the veg but not really touch the meat. You might have to top this up as the meat roasts.

Step 6: Place the meat in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes to start the skin crackling.

Step 7

Step 7: After 15-20 minutes, turn the oven down to about 150 degrees Celsius and continue cooking for about 1.5 hours depending on the size of you meat. Mine is 700g today, probably a bit big for two, but it’s just so tasty and it’s difficult to cook a smaller piece. Rick Stein recommends 1.5kg for 4-6 people.

Step 8

Step 8: Once the meat is cooked through, and meltingly tender – but not too dry – up the temperature of the oven to 220 again and finish off for 15-20 minutes to crisp up the skin good and proper!

Step 9

Step 9: Cut into think slices and serve with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.  Make a gravy from the juices in the bottom of the pan and some wine.

Not so good technology…

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By , June 20, 2010 8:28 pm

Nic on Tour

When Graham told me we could now update our website from our phones my first thought was “Why would you bother?!” However, this week I was on another of my adventures as a flying speech pathologist, and as I sat at a small, regional airport, I thought to myself “Aha! Let’s try out this new fangled technology” But alas, it failed me. It took 45 minutes (the more than ample check in time required in small places) to write two paragraphs on my phone, and just as I went to press publish, it disappeared. And actually that 45 minutes included the first go that also disappeared a few lines in. So even though the moment has passed, I have now calmed down enough to re-write said blog, and include the pictures I took along the way…

So I’ll take you back to Tuesday morning…

Adelong Falls

I have been doing these regional trips for a good 3 years and not once have I ever missed a flight. But Tuesday morning I came the closest yet, and none of it was my fault. After all this time I have the morning routine down to a T with not a moment wasted to optimise my sleep. This particular morning was no different, I left the house 6:15 to arrive with sufficient time to check in and have breakfast at the airport (this adds 15 minutes of sleep to the equation) But on arriving at the airport car park, the airport bus which is guaranteed every 15 minutes just didn’t turn up. When one finally did turn up, it was clear by the number of people that the one before had not arrived as it was standing room only.  This delayed my arrival at the terminal, but shouldn’t have been enough to miss my flight. However, on arriving at the terminal there was a queue at the Qantas Link counter. Not that unusual, I hear you cry, but this isn’t Qantas proper, its the tiny planes that fly around NSW so in all the time I have been flying with them I have never had more than 5 people tops in front of me. But today there was more than 50 people queuing out the door. I dutifully queued as every good British person does, but when it got to 8am, 5 minutes before my check in was due to close, I had to do something very un-British and push to the front of the queue. When you are only going away for 24 hours there is a time and a place for drastic action! I then had to battle the queue for security, which was also abnormally long, and forgo my breakfast in order to make it to the gate before they started announcing my name over the tannoy! Needless to say I made it to the gate with seconds to spare.  Not something I plan to repeat in the near future, so I guess I better start getting out of bed a few minutes earlier :(

Adelong Countryside

On arriving at my destination, the speech therapy is the easy bit. I was one hour out of Wagga Wagga (yes there really is a place called Wagga Wagga) along the Snowy Mountain Highway. It was not the largest of places I’ve been to, and my biggest worry is how I’m going to eat, especially on a Monday, when everywhere is closed. I thought I’d been clever booking my trip on a Tuesday, however, because Monday was a public holiday, Tuesday was the new Monday. Which meant my options were Spa and a microwave or the pub. Well I missed Spa by 3 minutes, apparently 6pm is late opening. So it was the pub. I was lucky this time because they shouldn’t have been serving food but they had a function on so the chef was in. Well I found out later that the definition of a function was 8 people having dinner! But at least I ate!

Desert Landscape

So it doesn’t feel too much like work I always try and have a little look around where I’m going and so I play the “brown sign game.” That is, I hunt down the brown road signs and see what they have to offer. This time it wasn’t bad, I’ve been to worse! There are some old mining ruins and a sort of waterfall just outside of town, worth a little look and a few photos, and a good way of killing half an hour before driving to the airport, as there is nothing to do there.  So here a few snaps just to prove I got out and about.

The problem with being able to update much more easily now is that you have to suffer my mindless ramblings more often!


BAD girl Molly. But you’re so CLEVER!

By , June 18, 2010 8:58 pm

King of the jungle

Well our cats are normally pretty rubbish in their aquisition of local wildlife – which we generally really appreciate!

We get quite a few ghekos in the summer, lots of roaches and the odd frog. But today I was upstairs and Molly ran past with something pretty big in her mouth! This is not good.

Look closely...

Having chased her around the house whilst growling (Molly, not me!) with Myrtle close in tow, I managed to grab her and get both cars locked into the laundry. Turns out she had caught a juvenille pigeon! Initial anger soon turned to paternal pride in our ‘girls’!

The pigeon seemed to be in pretty good shape as Molly only had it by the scruff of the neck and basically had a mouthfull of feathers!

After managing to wrestle the pigeon from the jaws of death and giving it 10 minutes to recover in it’s own in the laundry it seemed fine, minus a few feathers mind you! Managed to set it free with both cats firmly locked away to give it a good head start – last seen sat on telephone wires outside of our house (if you look carefully)!

A little lapse…

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By , June 17, 2010 9:01 pm

It's takeout night!

I just thought you’d like to know that even I have a little lapse every now and then and can’t be bothered to cook. So tonight was take out night! Even a Jamie aficionado like me can’t quite manage to cook every night, and this is the third night in a row that there has been no Jamie action, as I’ve been away and Graham cooked for my return. This means I have to get back on to it, even bigger and better than before, starting tomorrow!

You can’t beat a good roast!

By , June 14, 2010 6:28 pm

Lamb Roast

We love winter! Not that we don’t love summer but after 3 months of it being too hot to put the oven on and about 6 months where you have to think very carefully about how long you want to put on the oven on for, we love it when the weather turns and we have to put the oven on to try and warm the house! Now it’s 10 degrees in the kitchen I don’t need asking twice if I want a Sunday Roast.

Lamb Roast

Now, when I first started cooking in our little house in Denham Street, the first thing we tried was a lamb roast. It is one of the few times I’ve had a complete and utter disaster. I dutifully tried to follow the recipe altering the oven temperatures accordingly, but little did I know we had inherited a dud oven. When I removed the lamb from the oven after it’s allotted cooking time, it was still jelly raw. Not even Graham who likes his meat blue would have eaten it. From that day on we realised we had to either have the oven on or off, the was no middle ground and we always had to extend the cooking times. Anyway, I digress! Well there was a reason for my train of thought. Since my disaster we don’t really roast lamb. We eat lamb, but we tend to BBQ it. So when I saw roast lamb in the book I thought it was about time I gave it another go.  And boy was I glad I did (and so was Graham!).

Caught Red Handed!

Roasted Onions

We had roast lamb with thyme, garlic and apricot and Jamie’s timings were perfect!  I also managed to do two recipes to accompany it, so I’ll have finished book 1 in no time. And the best bit is there were enough left overs for tonight’s dinner, so we’re having roast lamb with butterbean and leek bake, another recipe I would never have tried if it wasn’t for this challenge!

P.s. I’ve just checked the photos and it reminded me that life is too short to stuff an onion, I won’t be repeating that recipe!

I’m Sorry!

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By , June 14, 2010 12:09 pm

I was umming and aarghing as to whether I should post this or not but I know a few people want to see the photos. So the first thing to say is I’m really sorry that I was in the UK and didn’t tell you or didn’t come to visit. It was a surprise trip for mum and dad and I was only there for 7 days, so there just wasn’t time to everything. To make up for it, we should be back around Easter next year and will make plans to catch up with as many people as possible.

Air Conditioned Lunch!

I found some really cheap flights with Air Asia, but the down side of the cheapness was the length of time the journey took, so I thought I may as well make the most of it and have a mini break in Kuala Lumpur (well 24 hours). I managed to get out and a bout a little bit and take in some sights, although the Malaysian heat was a bit crazy, so I didn’t see as much as I wanted to as I just had to find some air conditioning – hence the Burger King lunch! Graham challenged me to try some local street food, but I chickened out as I was on my own, but I did manage to try some noodles at the hotel for dinner.

Click Here for more photos

Click on the picture for some more photos from my whirlwind tour of Kuala Lumpur.

The other thing about the cheap flights was that it dropped me at Stansted. Which would have been fine when Mum and Dad lived in Oxford, but now they live up North posed a bit more of a problem. But thankfully I have two very kind brother-in-laws and a wonderful sister who helped transport me up the motorway! Dave M. took me two hours up the motorway to a secret location off the M1, where I did a car swap. Then Gemma and Dave S. continued the journey to Mum and Dad’s new place. Gemma had arranged to collect something from Mum so we new she wouldn’t go to bed. So I knock on the door, and this was their reaction:

The Big Surprise! from Nic Midgley on Vimeo.

I have never seen Mum speechless before and Dad’s comedy double take was priceless! It was 9 months from buying the tickets to arriving on their doorstep. I have never managed to pull off a surprise before as it has always been too hard and I just have to tell. But I did it, and I think it was worth it! But I can tell you now, I won’t be doing it again, well not any time soon anyway!

You can check out the whole video on the video page if you really want to, but the one above is the best bit!

I just happened to time my trip for Kev and Sheena’s wedding so it was great to be able to share their day with them and catch up with all the Leicester folk. There will be some photos on here soon but I am having a job editing the thousand of shots I took, you only need to see the edited highlights! A good time was had by all I think.

Lunch at Sam's Chophouse

Mum and I also had a day out in Manchester. Well Mum had a meeting to go to, so I did a bit of shopping in my favourite haunts, then we had a fabulous lunch at Sam’s Chophouse, where I got my fix of good English food – black pudding and chicken livers – yum yum! We also thought we would be tourists and had a trip on the Manchester Wheel! Not quite as good as the London Eye, but it was a beautiful day so we could appreciate Manchester at its best!

There was also an opportunity to go out for dinner with Gem and Dave to again appreciate some good British cooking which I sometimes miss – you can definitely eat too many BBQ’s and salads! I read about The Red Pump Inn in a magazine, as it was being recommended for the best pork belly in the UK, so how could I miss an opportunity like that?! They also served home made sausages, and as I was leaving just before Dad’s birthday we thought we could go and have an early celebration.

Well I thought it lived up to it’s reputation I had a fantastic chicken liver pate, followed by the best pork belly I have ever eaten in a restaurant. Normally I don’t order it as it is never as good as the stuff we make at home, they never cook it for long enough so the meat can often be chewy and fatty and the crackling can be disappointing, but this was just perfect! A great way to finish off my trip! I can’t wait to go back and take Graham for the pigeon breast!

Manchester Gallery

Click on the picture for some more photos from Manchester.

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