Happy New Year!

As is always the case over the festive season, I’ve over indulged, food and drink wise, on a scale that could rival King Henry VIII. There have been moments when I’ve felt as though I’m one Malteser away from slipping into a diabetic coma. I’d reached the stage where I was spending most of my time laying on my back on the sofa like a helpless tortoise, whimpering feeble requests for fennel tea and steamed vegetables. I may be exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea. I certainly shouldn’t complain- unlike many unlucky people I know, I’ve managed to survive December without contracting norovirus or a stinking cold.

Now that 2013 has arrived, I can get back to something resembling normality and enjoy a fresh start. While it will be nice to eat some extra healthy food after all the excess, I’d be lying if I said I’d turned over a completely new (lettuce) leaf. As I write this, I can smell the ham that is slow cooking in Coca Cola in my kitchen (the Nigella classic). We also had people over last night to help us welcome in the New Year, and as well as cooking this chilli, I made the chocolate digestive cheesecake from Lorraine Pascale’s Home Cooking Made Easy. Oh. Em. Gee. If a cheesecake-induced coma is a thing that is possible, then I think it nearly happened last night. Not that it wasn’t good- I just should have dished up smaller portions (a word of advice- an eighth per person is TOO MUCH, PEOPLE!) If I made it again, I would consider using a plain digestive base rather than chocolate digestives, as the extra chocolate made it quite tough to cut through. Also, I would probably leave off the melted chocolate topping as I made a bit of a mess of it and, to be honest, the cheesecake is amply rich enough without it.

This is what's left of 'Cheesecake-ageddon'.

This is what’s left of ‘Cheesecake-ageddon’.

Ham in Coca Cola

Ham in Coca Cola – before and after.

Luckily, the weather finally got its act together today after being mostly wet and windy for the last few weeks. So, we made the most of it by enjoying a refreshing walk in the park to assist the recovery from what will henceforth be referred to as ‘Cheesecake-ageddon’.

Anyway, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. Here’s to a marvellous 2013.

*Eats a fistful of antacid tablets and reaches for the Berocca*

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Bank Holiday blowout food

This weekend was the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas, and I managed to wangle a shift off from work to enable me to enjoy the whole three days off. In classic British Bank Holiday fashion, the weather forecast was for rain all weekend. “There goes my nice long bike ride in the sun,” I thought. However, yesterday was lovely and sunny and while we didn’t cycle the longer route I’d originally planned, we did have a nice cycle around the park in the sunshine (sitting down to enjoy a cheeky Calippo under a tree along the way). As I’d thought the weather was going to be rubbish all weekend, I was feeling a bit indulgent and planned a menu of tasty treats for our three days off together.

We started off on Saturday with a nice lay in (interrupted by needing to answer the door, bleary eyed and Russell Brand-haired, to the postman to take delivery of some packages from Amazon). We then enjoyed a pot of coffee and some pain au chocolat while still in our dressing gowns, watching re-runs of Time Team on the telly. Lovely. I won’t bore you with this level of detail about the rest of the weekend but it’s worth mentioning how much I appreciate not having to set an alarm and having a home filled with the smell of fresh coffee first thing in the morning.

I decided to make cream teas on Saturday, the original plan being to cycle to the park and enjoy them in the sun. As it was pissing down with rain, we enjoyed them in the comfort of our own home instead. The scone recipe I used was this one (don’t do what I did and absent-mindedly use plain flour instead of self-raising- I had to chuck out the first batch and start again when I realised they weren’t rising in the oven). We had our usual debate about whether to put the jam on first or the clotted cream- I always put my cream on first with the strawberry jam on top because I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing (which is the Devon way of doing it). However, Owen spent a large portion of his childhood and teens in Cornwall, and he and his mum will argue until they’re blue in the face that the Cornish way (jam first, cream on top) is the only correct way to serve a cream tea.

Cream teas (the Devon way). I got a bit carried away and decided to put them on my extra chintzy bone china plates.

Yesterday’s breakfast was pancakes with bacon and maple syrup- one of my favourite weekend breakfasts when I can be bothered to make it. I use the following ingredients for the two of us, adjusted from this Jamie Oliver recipe.

  • 2 eggs
  • 80g plain flour
  • 95ml milk
  • Half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Breakfast pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

Owen did a roast for dinner last night. I’m not very good at roasts, but I do always contribute by making the stuffing balls (chopped onion, grated apple, sage and breadcrumbs bound with an egg) and Yorkshire puds. A roast is one of those meals, like a full English breakfast, which always tastes that much better when someone else cooks it for you. Owen happens to be very good at making a roast dinner (his roast potatoes in particular are excellent), which works out well for me…

Owen’s yummy roast potatoes.

I made tomato soup for lunch today using this Felicity Cloake recipe (which is my standard ‘go to’ tomato soup recipe- the balsamic vinegar lifts the flavours perfectly). I quite often make soup for lunch on a weekend, especially if the weather’s a bit miserable- I find it quite comforting with a nice bit of crusty bread for dippage.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these before they went in the oven- I just thought they looked pretty…

Tomato soup

One of the aforementioned Amazon deliveries was Lorraine Pascale’s latest book, which provided the inspiration for tonight’s dinner- prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce (the recipe wasn’t on her usual BBC page so the link is to the Mail Online- sorry about that). The only adjustments I made were to use one tin of tomatoes instead of two and enough linguine for two people instead of four. There are loads of recipes in this book that I want to try, so you’ll no doubt be hearing more about them soon…

Lorraine Pascale’s prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce

So, we’re back to work tomorrow. After all this culinary naughtiness (I’ve not even mentioned the Tesco’s jumbo chocolate croissants and copious amounts of beer and wine we washed everything down with until now), I think I’ll need to get on the exercise bike and cook a few healthy meals this week to restore the balance…

Lorraine Pascale’s tin foil Thai salmon and the post-Olympic comedown

Owen and I are two of the least ‘sporty’ people you’ll ever meet, but we still spent two weeks watching almost nothing but sport on telly during the Olympics, wondering what we’d do when it was all over. We took the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach and couldn’t help but get sucked in. I cried actual tears along with Jessica Ennis when she was presented with her gold medal (although admittedly I had had a few beers), and found myself on the edge of my seat, shouting at the telly and cheering on Team GB on countless occasions. When the closing ceremony arrived, everybody thought: “What the hell are we supposed to do now?”

So it was on Monday night, as I sat watching Lorraine Pascale’s latest cookery programme while Owen registered his disinterest by tinkering on the computer, that I realised everything is already back to normal. I’m absorbed by food programmes on the telly while Owen rolls his eyes and skulks off to do something else. The balance is restored.

Anyway, this rather long preamble brings me to this recipe, which is from Lorraine Pascale’s new TV programme and book. It’s a nice, simple, fish-in-a-foil-parcel affair, and it’s tasty too. I used salmon instead of trout and cooked my fish parcels for 20 minutes instead of 12 as my oven is a bit rubbish. I also served it with wholegrain rice and broccoli instead of the suggested noodles, because we’re big lovers of broccoli in this household and wholegrain rice goes nicely with salmon.