Cauliflower cheese

The well known winter dish consists of cooked cauliflower in a rich cheese sauce, browned under the grill till it’s bubbling. Thinking about this in July (as one does when confronted with an unseasonable vegetable in the supermarket) I got to wondering how I could turn it into a summer dish.

So here is Cauliflower Cheese for lunch in the garden. The cauliflower is made into a chilled soup (see the previous post). The cheese is either a simple chunk of cheddar or emmenthal (as in the top picture) or you can grate small piles of parmesan and turn them into Parmesan Crisps. All you need to do is spoon the grated cheese on to a sheet of baking paper and cook them under high heat, in a hot oven, for about 5 minutes. Leave them to cool and peel off and serve with the soup.

Two ways with cauliflower

Two ideas coming up which will surprise and delight your guests.

Chilled elegance

This an an antique china cup containing a very simple soup, made from chilled cauliflower puree. It’s a refreshing starter for a hot day and so easy to make. It takes about 15 minutes and is another triumph for using the microwave in real cooking.

Just cut up the florets from a small to medium cauliflower, arrange them in a shallow dish with a little salt and a few tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave for about 8 minutes. Then put the florets and juice into a liquidizer and blend with 2 cups of vegetable stock and 2 cups of milk until the mixture is velvety smooth.

The soup is good hot, served with crusty French bread or better still, cold, sprinkled with a dash of paprika.

A word about presentation

The grilled chicken in the previous post can be eaten with your fingers at a drinks party standing up, or more elegantly, as part of a dinner. The two styles of presentation are shown below. The first is on a Japanese lacquer plate where the chicken is arranged with steamed vegetables and pasta quills. In the lower photograph the ingredients are exactly the same but they are served in small pots.

(In case you missed the recipe details, please scroll down to find out more.)

vivettinghausen said: Recipe for the dairy free peach muffins please?

Peach muffins

You need: 3 large eggs, 6 oz/170g granulated sugar + 1oz/28g brown sugar, 6 oz/170g sifted flour, 3.5 fl oz/85ml oil, 1 1/2oz/42g ground almonds, 4 peaches.

Preheat the oven to 190C/380F. Prepare a muffin tin with paper cases.

Cover the peaches with boiling water, drain and carefully remove the skins. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites till thick. Put them in another bowl while you whisk the yolks, adding the sugar gradually till they are pale and thick. Fold the whisked whites, with the flour, into the egg yolk mixture. Add the oil and beat for a short time till everything is mixed together - not too long. Spoon the muffin mixture into the paper cases - don’t overfill them, leave space for them to rise.

Cut the peeled peaches into slices and arrange a few on each muffin. Mix the ground almonds with the brown sugar and sprinkle this over the top. Bake the muffins for about 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool.

Serve cold or warm (half a minute in the microwave freshens up 2 or 3 muffins perfectly).

Griddled chicken and what to do with it

The more succulent parts of a chicken - the leg and thigh, even wing portions on the bone - always take longer to cook, so the problem is: what to do with the dryer breast portions?

My solution is to cook the breasts so quickly they don’t become solid and dry; for this you need to cut them into thin slices. The easiest way to do this is to freeze the whole breasts for an hour or so and then cut them either horizontally into larger slices, or, as in the picture, vertically into small strips. Each piece is about the thickness of a pound coin (or 1/8th of an inch, 1/4 cm).

Arrange the chicken on a plate and sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of Teriyaki Sauce. Add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and turn them over to coat with the mixture. Heat a ridged pan and wipe over with a piece of kitchen paper moistened with oil. You can feel through the paper when the pan is hot (but be careful not to burn yourself.) Then cook the strips for just two minutes and turn them over to cook the other side for another couple of minutes. Serve hot or even left to cool down.

Some of you may want to add a spicy dip or mayonnaise. It’s your choice. If you want to explore some dips, try the BBC Good Food website. It’s always a reliable source, specially for those who are confused by the mountain of recipes available online.

Peach muffins

Muffins are nothing more than small cakes, cooked in special indented pans, rather than one cake tin. Lining the pans with baking cases stops the muffins sticking and makes them easy to serve.

The ones in the picture were made from the same recipe as many of my cakes containing fruit. In case you missed them, these cakes were topped with blueberries, raspberries, cherries or apples. The mixture contains oil instead of the more usual butter, making it suitable for those on a dairy free diet, but it has another hidden advantage. The finished cake always seems much lighter as after cooking and cooling, the oil makes it moist, whereas butter firms up.

If you’d like the recipe, please click the Ask me Anything button at the top.

Getting it all in place

I’m afraid the picture has nothing to do with my Sunday thoughts about writing - except that writing is a process of ordering your mind, and the fruit here has been carefully arranged! (In my defence I was thinking about berries last week and came across this photo of blackberries and blueberries which I may even have put up before.)



Here are two quotes about the process of creating a flow of words (both are reblogged (via wordpainting):

The first is by Steven Wright. There are several men with a similar name: one is a footballer, another is a NY based novelist born in 1946 who has taught creative writing at the universities of Princeton and Brown. But no, these are Stephen, not Steven. The man in question was born in 1955 and is an Academy Award winning comedian, actor and writer. Here’s what he says about starting a novel:

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” 



The second quote comes from Annie Proulx.



“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”




Born in 1935, she can trace her ancestry back to 1635. She has lived in many states of the USA and her most famous books are The Shipping News and a short story called Brokeback Mountain which was made into a hugely successful film. She is modest about her success. Here’s what she says on becoming a celebrity:
“It’s not good for one’s view of human nature, that’s for sure. Invitations are coming from festivals to come read (for an hour for a hefty sum of money). But most don’t particularly care about your writing or what you’re trying to say. You’re there as a human object, one that has won a prize. It gives you a very odd, ginger kind of sensation.”

Getting it all in place

I’m afraid the picture has nothing to do with my Sunday thoughts about writing - except that writing is a process of ordering your mind, and the fruit here has been carefully arranged! (In my defence I was thinking about berries last week and came across this photo of blackberries and blueberries which I may even have put up before.)

Here are two quotes about the process of creating a flow of words (both are reblogged (via wordpainting):

The first is by Steven Wright. There are several men with a similar name: one is a footballer, another is a NY based novelist born in 1946 who has taught creative writing at the universities of Princeton and Brown. But no, these are Stephen, not Steven. The man in question was born in 1955 and is an Academy Award winning comedian, actor and writer. Here’s what he says about starting a novel:

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”

The second quote comes from Annie Proulx.

You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”

Born in 1935, she can trace her ancestry back to 1635. She has lived in many states of the USA and her most famous books are The Shipping News and a short story called Brokeback Mountain which was made into a hugely successful film. She is modest about her success. Here’s what she says on becoming a celebrity:

It’s not good for one’s view of human nature, that’s for sure. Invitations are coming from festivals to come read (for an hour for a hefty sum of money). But most don’t particularly care about your writing or what you’re trying to say. You’re there as a human object, one that has won a prize. It gives you a very odd, ginger kind of sensation.”

Stilton souffle

Stilton is a blue cheese that is strong and salty. The Man in the Armchair Kitchen loves it, and received a huge piece for his birthday. Even he couldn’t eat it all in one go, so he packed it into smaller pieces and put them in the freezer. Last weekend he got one out - and then promptly left to go to a conference, leaving me with a large piece of cheese I’m not that fond of.

Someone had told me about a restaurant dish they’d eaten recently: Stilton custard. That seemed a good idea; mixed with cream and egg yolks, it might make a good little starter. So I made it according to the recipe (finding that the suggested cooking time of 20 minutes in a warm oven was not nearly long enough.) The first pot I took out tasted just like soup. And a very good soup it was: just enough (in a small ramekin) to serve at a meal where more was coming. A larger quantity might have been too much as it is very rich.

I continued cooking the rest of the ramekins and the mixture did, in fact, turn into custard. Quite nice, though nothing special. Then I had an idea: why not cut through the heaviness and for me, excessive saltiness of the cheese, and turn the mixture into a souffle? So this is what I did, simply by whisking egg whites till they were stiff and folding them into the creamy stilton mix.

Of the three experimental dishes, the soup and the souffle were the best. In a modern restaurant, the chef might be tempted to serve both together, calling it a meli-melo of stilton. Then again, if you have a large piece of cheese, you might just get out the crackers and eat the lot.

Scroll down to see the stilton soup and the custard.

Stilton soup and stilton custard.

Here are the two dishes made from the same mixture as the souffle above.

Red and green gooseberries

I have never encountered these fruits outside England, but that’s not to say they don’t exist; just that in my travels I’ve never seen them.

The red ones are called ‘eating gooseberries’ and are bursting with flavour. You just need to snip off the ends (called ‘top and tailing’) and pop them in your mouth. The green ones are quite sour and need sugar to bring out the taste. The best way is to cook them with a little sugar till they are soft, but still hold their shape. This can be done on the hob, with a little water, or with no water at all in a covered dish in the microwave. A pile like those in the picture would take about 3 minutes.

What do you do with them next? Put them in a pie dish and cover with a crumble mixture and bake till the top is brown. Or serve cooked gooseberries as a sweet accompaniment to oily fish like mackerel. In this case you can just serve the stewed fruit in a small bowl or make it into a salsa with the addition of mint and cider vinegar. (Here’s a recipe from the excellent River Cottage:

http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/mackerel-with-gooseberry-and-mint-salsa/  )

Now here’s a surprising bit of news about gooseberries. If you make them into jam - whether they are green or red - the jam will always be a glorious rose colour. When I was a child I remember picking gooseberries with my brother. Years later I was visiting a very old family friend who had gooseberry bushes in her tiny garden in Burnt Oak, north London. Whatever the time of year I would always come away with a jar of the red jam, topped with a circle of gingham, and labelled ‘Gooseberry Jam 1970’.

Can’t make an omelette?

Here’s an easy way. Using the fried mushrooms (in the picture in the post below), I added some spring onions and a few cherry tomatoes. Then I whisked the eggs. Now instead of cooking the omelette on the hob, I arranged the vegetables on the base of a flan tin and poured in the egg mixture. It was cooked in a medium oven (about 185C/360F) for about 25 minutes.

One word of warning: don’t use a tin with a removable base for this; the mixture will seep out of the bottom. I did just that which explains why the omelette is very thin. The best way would be to line a small tin with parchment paper and then proceed as above.

I served the cooled omelette with some roasted potato skins. You don’t need any oil - just a sprinkling of sea salt crystals and half in hour in a hot oven.

If you want any more details, please click on the Ask me Anything button at the top.

 Fried mushrooms

…… they’re good on crostini, tossed over salad, or served on the side with scrambled eggs.

These are chestnut mushrooms. They don’t really taste of chestnuts at all, but they’re a similar colour, and perhaps would go well with the nuts in an autumn dish. All year round we can buy the little white balls. Those who love porcini, oyster or shitake mushrooms look down on the cheap version, but they have their place in everyday cooking as they can so easily be livened up with garlic, spring onions and a dash of soy sauce.

During the war, when I was a child, I disliked mushrooms. The ones we got were wide with dark gills and peel that had to be removed. But it was a special Sunday evening dish that I remember: mushroom stalks on toast. Yes, really. Because of the food shortage my mother would save all the stalks and then do something magic with them to serve fried (in what? there was no butter or olive oil) and piled on toast. I think that was when I developed a preference for beans on toast!

The Man in the Armchair kitchen loves to eat mushrooms raw in salad. I think they need to be fried to bring out the umami taste. For a slightly unconventional idea, see what’s coming up tomorrow.



Country bread
This is the kind of bread made by peasants. I’m not being critical: on the contrary, it’s real bread with no additives or preservatives, made by the same method as country people have made for centuries. Now it’s available in ‘artisan bakeries’. You’ll find these in the high streets of upmarket suburbs where the residents think nothing of spending upwards of £3 ($5) on a small round loaf.



It’s very hard to make bread like this in a domestic oven. A little while ago I wrote about the joys of making home made rolls. Sourdough or country style bread is a more complicated process. Do any of you make it? I’d love to hear if you do.

Country bread

This is the kind of bread made by peasants. I’m not being critical: on the contrary, it’s real bread with no additives or preservatives, made by the same method as country people have made for centuries. Now it’s available in ‘artisan bakeries’. You’ll find these in the high streets of upmarket suburbs where the residents think nothing of spending upwards of £3 ($5) on a small round loaf.

It’s very hard to make bread like this in a domestic oven. A little while ago I wrote about the joys of making home made rolls. Sourdough or country style bread is a more complicated process. Do any of you make it? I’d love to hear if you do.

The pattern of life

Here are some Sunday thoughts on life - which for me starts with writing.

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. Stephen King.

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Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life. Fernando Pessoa.
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Both quotes were reblogged via wordpainting.