Turkey Sandwiches are SO last year.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it was Christmas recently. Technically it’s been Christmas since August in the shops, but these days if it’s not Christmas it’s Easter or Hallowe’en, so there’s nearly always a novelty food item doing the rounds. I was lucky enough to enjoy 4 belt-busting Christmas lunches this year, packing on around 4 and a half stone in the process and thoroughly enjoying every cheese covered moment. James and I are now going through the stage called “Eat EVERYTHING in the house so that we are prepared for a new, healthy lifestyle in 2 days time otherwise we’ll fall at the first hurdle”. We have a lot of chocolate and cheese to eat tonight before crudités and quark kick in. Yum.  

There’s still a layer of Milk Tray for me to scoff my way through, and a particularly promising looking brie stuffed with pesto and spring onion. This is, of course, entirely dependent on whether it’s all still there when I get home, otherwise I’ll just have to nibble on some kale with the guinea pig. Oh, did I not tell you we adopted a guinea pig? His name’s Patch. We tried to change it, but it sort of stuck. I wanted to call him Loki. He’s aloof and VERY middle class. 

Anyway, Christmas. James and I stayed home on Christmas Day, which was delightful because it meant I got to cook. There are so many wonderful alternatives to turkey out there that it seemed a shame to buy a bird for just the two of us. Too much would have gone to waste – there are only so many days that you can put turkey in things before you’re completely sick of it. 

That’s not to say that we didn’t have turkey at all over Christmas. In fact, exactly half of our Christmaseseseses this year contained a festive fowl, the weekend before with J’s parents and then on Boxing Day with my Dad. Christmas Day lunch itself saw J’s mum making us delicious fajitas, which may or may not have contained turkey, and a visit to my Mum saw us enjoying a festive slow cooker curry with chicken. That was so good I’d give up all future Christmas meals to have it again. 

Christmas Day evening though, that was my time to shine, and shine (I hope) I did. I made a jus and everything – the first time I have ever made a jus and it was glossy and sticky and wonderful. It was red wine and rosemary, and I could have eaten it with a hunk of bread. Now, I’m not one to normally praise my own cooking skills, in fact you may have noticed that I am often rather derogatory about my cooking, but this was an exception. I cooked fillet steak in a sage, thyme and garlic butter, and it was so tender it didn’t need a steak knife. This was especially excellent, as we don’t have any steak knives in the house, and that could have presented a problem. I roasted some potatoes with a little rosemary (because it wouldn’t be Christmas with roastie ‘tatoes) and some green and purple mange tout. I didn’t even know that you could get purple mange tout. They didn’t really taste very different, but it looked pretty arty and matched my jus. Sort of. I would give you a recipe, but I sort of made it up as I went along… Sorry. 

I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader. It was heaven. Scrummy, yummy, heaven. I could have eaten it 3 times over. Maybe even four.

I love Christmas Dinner, I really do – but it’s always the same every year, and you can always count on someone not to like sprouts, or carrots, or to want extra crunchy potatoes, or something. So why not try something different? I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of Christmas Dinner, it was cost effective and delicious and most of all, I cooked the entire meal in under an hour – meaning I had more time to spend on the sofa with James ‘enjoying’ Christmas TV. I maintain that Doctor Who was the only decent thing on TV on Christmas Day. We watched that with champagne and chocolate, and I cried my eyes out. Typical Christmas. 

This brings me to New Year’s Resolutions, in a hugely roundabout kind of a way. I have already given up something that was bad for me, and it’s going pretty well. For Christmas, James and I got Gold Passes to the London Film and Comic Convention and we’re going to meet STAN LEE, who’s only, like, our total idol and junk. Now, we’re the kind of people who enjoy dressing up in silly costumes and pretending we’re Superheroes, and we want to look good for Stan Lee – so we’re battling the bulge, taking up exercise (which I’m still not totally convinced is good for you) and eating healthy things. These are the things we’re doing together. My mum still doesn’t believe I have it in me to exercise – but I don’t think she understands just what a powerful incentive ComicCon is.  

On a personal note, I want to improve my writing style and skills, and I will write my novel this year. I feel that the ideas and scraps of paper that I keep my ideas on are finally coming together and I can see where I want to go, so I’m going to be focusing heavily on that (as well as starting my new job) and I promise you the blog posts will be more frequent – probably because I will have more exciting news and recipes to share. 

I wish you all nothing but health, happiness and fabulous dining experiences in the coming year. 

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And a partridge (or two) in a pear tree.

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Hello! Remember me? Thought not, but never mind, I’m back now and that’s what matters.

I appear to have been on a temporary hiatus from blogging, and it really was terribly rude of me not to tell you first, especially seeing as I didn’t real warn myself either. I hope you can forgive me. So, what have I been up to in my blogcation, I hear you ask. (You’re right, that’s awful portmanteau-ing, I’ll never do it again, I promise.)

Well, not much really. I’ve been rethinking various life goals, cooking, working, sleeping. You know, the usual.

Oh, and I got engaged. Hence, the life goals and what not. I’m really thinking about where I want to go in life now, and I’m pretty sure that the answer lies somewhere in my head – I just can’t figure out quite where!

I have also decided that a wedding is the perfect excuse to stop eating so much cheese. As much as I love cheese, it isn’t on friendly terms with my hips and chin. It’s a shame, really. My wonderful partner type person has already cottoned onto this. I refer you to an ‘incident’ in Lidl last weekend where I went to pick up the customary tube of ‘Rusti Chips’, Lidl’s answer to Pringles (only better). James looked at my outstretched hand, and said “wedding”. I retracted my hand, lip quivering at the thought of never being able to eat crisps again. What a git, I thought.

He’s right though. We have been slacking on the healthy eating recently and could both stand to be a bit fitter. Okay, I could stand to be a lot fitter, at least James can do sit ups. I can’t even do one. Or a push up. I maintain that I could do one if there was a cheesy reward, but that kind of negates doing them in the first place.

So, in an effort to cut back both on our BMI’s and our budgets, I have devised a weekly menu from the mountains of food in the freezer and stuck it on the fridge, where it must be followed at all costs. Or else. I’m not sure who the ‘or else’ was meant for, but it sounds pretty good in my head so I’m keeping it in.

Last night was our last “pig out” night, and boy, was it good! Roast partridges, Dijon mustard mash, honey roasted parsnips and butternut squash. You can see the picture up there (that lantern was an engagement present from my dad and stepmum, it’s such a delightful fire hazard, we just had to light it!)

Anyway, Partridges are tricky blighters, those bones are teeny tiny. I have to admit, we gave up on cutlery at one point and pretended we were Elizabethan royalty. Well, I did. I think James was just trying to get to the meat. Thoroughly delicious though, and completely complemented by the Creme brûlée we had for pudding – I couldn’t resist, it’s just the one night after all. (I’ve been saying that every night for a while now. Oops.)

Let’s have a miniature digression here because if we didn’t, I don’t think it would sound like I was writing this post! When I found my partridges, in Lidl of course, I was also surprised to find: venison steaks, kangaroo steaks, diced reindeer, stuffed pheasant, whole lobsters, and a host of other fantastic meats and seafood. It’s a magical place and I love it a little bit more every time I go there.

However – still no river cobbler. Disappointing.

So yes, digressions aside, today marks the start of smaller, healthier portions and (possible) exercise. Well, we’re not getting any younger, I suppose. It’s not like I don’t have time to work on the flat stomach and finding my jawline somewhere on my face, my mother has requested that the wedding be far enough away for her to find the perfect hat. So we’re looking at provisional dates in 2023 at the moment. Milliners, be prepared.

Anyway, I suppose this is the start of a new chapter, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with all you people who glance at my life on occasion. Even if I do sound largely sarcastic most of the time, I’m getting happier and especially looking forward to Christmas because I’ll get to eat and cook lovely things with the important people. And you can guarantee there’ll at least be pictures. Maybe.

If you’re lucky and I don’t forget of course, which is incredibly likely.

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Topic: Thunder

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Good gracious, a topical post, from moi?! Heavens above! I promise I’ll try and make it good. Well, if you’re lucky.

Now, as is completely typical of me, I have booked a week off work in the single week that there are severe weather warnings in my area (read: most of the country – there’s no avoiding this one. Like headlice really, your mum can do her best with that comb and the special shampoo, but you’re gonna get them anyway). So, I’ll probably be staying inside quite a lot. To avoid the storms, not because I have headlice. I don’t have headlice. My mum can vouch for me on that.

On the plus side, staying indoors means more cooking, provided of course that the power doesn’t go out because then my electric hob is completely useless, as is my new microwave, my slow cooker and just about everything else in my kitchen.

That’s not particularly what I wanted to talk about though – my topical discussion this week is more “food waste” focused. In light of the results that a well known “blue” supermarket chain has just announced, wasting 30,000 tonnes of food in 6 months isn’t considered to be as appalling as I’d like it to be. So, I have to ask the question, why?

I don’t have to necessarily, but it seemed appropriate.

When I was a child (oh yeah, this is going to be largely based on anecdotal family evidence, not science – I should probably mention that before we start) I didn’t like the brown bits that you sometimes get on bananas. I was cajoled into eating them through “but they’re sweeter than the rest of the banana”. Lies, said my tiny child brain. Total lies and nonsense. I made this clear to whatever authority figure was in charge at that point and was presumably told to stop whining and eat it anyway.

We had a very low tolerance to waste, especially as my formative years were very largely influenced by my maternal grandmother who, having been around during the war years, was particularly vocal on the subject. Especially with my eyes being somewhat larger than my stomach and me wanting everything that everyone else got, despite the fact that they were all grown ups and about 3 times my size. I would like to point out, for the sake of family harmony, that my grandmother was very young during the war years and is still hugely glamorous and not at all ‘old’.

Tangents aside, I find it very difficult to waste food and I think that there is definitely a cultural link to the rise in wasted food products. Our current consumer culture dictates that we ‘need’ the newest, flashiest items and nothing can be perceived as ‘past its best’ or it reflects badly on our social status. Unless of course, that item can be identified as ‘vintage’, in which case it’s even better. The problem? This attitude is spreading through our entire way of living, and there’s no such thing as a vintage carrot. Couple that with the pseudo-scientific belief that everything past its use-by date will kill you, and you’ve bred a culture that will happily engage in wastefulness.

I don’t mean to be sanctimonious and what not, but when this ‘torrential weather’ hits us on Monday and the entirety of the UK is returned to the dark ages (if, of course, the forecasts are anywhere close to correct – I’ve got my shorts out just in case they’re as wrong as normal) we will all be unable to get to the supermarket!

Oh, the horror. Anyway, I’ve got some uses for food that you might otherwise have thrown away…

Did you see my soup? It was so lovely to come home to that soup last week, with a hot, crusty roll and some proper butter. Heaven. All it takes is 4 carrots, 3 onions, 4 parsnips and a swede or two. Boil ’em up until they’re soft, blend, season and voilà – comfort soup. The part you don’t know? All of that veg was going a bit soggy by the time I got around to using it, and someone else might have thrown in away. In fact, most people probably would. Not me though, mainly because I’m a sentimental old thing, and I genuinely feel bad for those veg if they aren’t used for their intended purpose. That’s right, I even sympathise with the things I’m going to eat. Earlier, I had a completely one sided conversation with the haddock fillets that are currently in my oven over whether I could salvage the spinach in the fridge. Turns out, I could. It was a little slimy, but I picked out the good bits and it’s baking away to create some kind of delicious Mornay based supper.

So then – don’t just chuck things away. I think that’s where I was going with this. Make banana smoothie if bits of your bananas are brown. Make a soup to save your squishy veg – even if you freeze it to use later (watch out though, when those gusts of wind knock out every power station in the country on Monday, your freezer will defrost. Be prepared to eat everything, raw too, probably). Cut off the bad bits and use the rest, it actually makes you feel better. Well, it makes me feel better and I haven’t taken the moral high ground in ages, take from that what you will.

In conclusion, then: the upcoming return to the dark ages will necessitate your reliance on food that is not perfect, use it wisely. Also, if we don’t return to the dark ages, try and use stuff up. It’ll probably save you some cash and, hey, if people think ‘thrift stores’ are cool now (thanks, Macklemore) maybe soon we can look forward to an adjustment in opinions about food and ways to not waste it (like freezing veg – not just peas either but all kinds of things!).

I’m sorry if this sounds preachy – I promise a return to self-deprecating cookery tips in the near future. If you’re lucky. If not, it’s a different ecological topic every week ’til Christmas.

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Risqué Brisket…

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Look at that piece of meat. Go on, take a long look. I’m sure it won’t mind. I think I may have just made a cultural point about objectification there – look at me having more than one level. One day, GSCE students will analyse this blog to find all the hidden messages that I definitely intended to put in. Not an accident at all. Please note that bit, students: definitely intentional. Appreciate it.

Anyway, that delicious piece of cow up there is brisket, which I recently learned comes from the shin. Funny that, you never think of shins having any meat on. Mine certainly don’t, if they did it might not hurt so much when I bash them into things. That happens a lot.

That brisket represents one of my greatest cooking accomplishments (and some of my cooking moments which are completely devoid of common sense). It took 10 hours from start to finish to reach tender perfection, and it’s a relatively simple recipe:

3 onions, very roughly chopped.
Lots of garlic, very roughly chopped.
2 big (ish) leeks, very roughly chopped.
Half a bottle of a semi decent red wine (there is absolutely no need to chop this as the manufacturers have already achieved a very fine consistency called “liquid”).
Pint of beef stock (maybe less – play it by ear on this one, if the brisket asks for more, you should appease it. A brisket can be a bit of a diva).
Onion chutney/marmalade – optional, but if you’re going to go for it, I’d suggest using lots because it’s yummy!
Salt and Black Pepper.

So, you want to rub your brisket in salt, pepper and onion chutney and pop it in the slow cooker. Add all the other ingredients and cook on low for 5 hours, then ramp it up to high for 5 hours. Treat your brisket well, and she will be good to you – and that’s a life lesson that also applies to women, cars and games consoles. Or so I’m told, anyway.

Check on it occasionally and maybe take some of the excess fat off the top as brisket fat isn’t great. Taste the cooking liquor every couple of hours to check if it needs more seasoning, and then use it for gravy. It’s delicious!

I served mine with garlic roasted potatoes and broccoli – and the next incarnation of the dish will have sautéed spinach and kale. I love kale so much – and that might be the most middle class thing I’ve ever said. Ever.

Now, I have tips, please learn from my stupidity. Please, or this will have all been for nothing.

Number one: Leave the string ON the brisket until after it’s cooked. There’s a high chance that everyone but me knows this anyway and has never had to experience their brisket separating into 2 pieces halfway through cooking. It’s distressing. Especially as after that it didn’t really fit in the slow cooker properly and required a lot more attention when I had other things to do, like cleaning, and buying a cactus.

Number 2: Actually trim the excess fat before cooking and don’t trust that it will all definitely render down and become delicious gravy. It doesn’t happen, and you look like an idiot trying to haul your piece(s) of brisket out of the slow cooker to cut it off mid cooking when it’s starting to look a bit funny. You also look like an idiot chasing lumps of fat around your slow cooker with a teaspoon, getting visibly more frustrated by the second because it keeps eluding your cunning “spoon plan”. That’s right, folks. I was outwitted by some fat from a brisket. It also helps avoid the horror moment of finding a “tube” in your meat, something that my Grandfather will tell you is worse than the 7th circle of hell.

Luckily, I found the tube that was lurking in my brisket and managed to get rid of it after only 10 minutes of following it with a spoon. You may call that a pointless waste of my time, but it really improved my dexterity, patience and ability to swear like a trooper. I count that as a win.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the Metro has told me that there’s a goat’s cheese crisis coming, and I need to prepare myself. I take back my earlier comment, that was the most middle class thing I have ever said.

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Is it me or is it getting Chilli-er?

Hello fellow bloggers and parents (I’m not a parent, I’m saying Hello to my parents – and probably giving my mother a heart attack in the process!) how lovely to see you. I hope you’ve had a lovely day.

Now, let’s put the pleasantries aside and get down to business. I promised you a chilli recipe, and I haven’t delivered it. Yet. There’s a number of reasons as to why not:

1. Work.
2. I’ve been ‘helping’ my mother write her form assembly. I say helping, she hasn’t seen it yet, it might be awful.
3. I tried to write it, I really did. As it turns out, my slapdash method of cookery looks much better on a plate than it does on paper… The first draft read like a biology lesson, it wasn’t pretty.
4. I’ve been sleeping a lot.

Anyway, for the sake of increasing my chances of being the next ‘big thing’ in cookery (unlikely, but worth a go) I’m going to try again. I’m nervous, I really am.

Phew. Let’s get started. Ingredients.

Some onions: I recommend one red and one white so as not to be accused of discrimination. I also recommend not wearing mascara whilst roughly chopping said onions, unless of course you enjoy looking like Alice Cooper’s hangover.

3-4 cloves of garlic. Depends how much you like garlic, I suppose. I’ll allow you a certain amount of autonomy there, it’s probably best. Finely chopped, blitzed, in great big lumps, up to you. I have a garlic press – it’s not very good though, so I usually allow my garlic to be a bit on the lumpy side.

Tip: when washing your hands after chopping garlic, use cold water. Warm or hot water will cause the garlic smell to embed itself in your hands for a longer period of time. I read it somewhere once, but I can tell you, it’s definitely true.

One packet of minced beef – for more than 4 people, I generally use two. I would tell you quantities in grams and things but we all know that whatever I say to look clever, we’ll all just chuck the entire contents of the packet in anyway. And it generally works, let’s be honest.

Peppers! I tend to use one of each colour – purely for aesthetic purposes, otherwise chilli can look a bit, well, brown. I tend to have quite chunky peppers – I like the texture.

Tin of kidney beans: rinsed and drained and washed to get all that funny looking goo off.

Chillies! I generally use 3 (2 red and one green if you wish to copy me to the letter – although I don’t recommend it), and then fry some others off as a side dish for those who like their food with extra heart burn. Again, I would say finely chopped but I always get bored/scratch my eye/get chilli up my nose and end up finely chopping the first one and roughly chopping the others just to get it over with! Plus, it’s hard to watch Star Trek, cook, drink wine and not be able to see all at the same time.

Speaking of wine, we need a good glug for the chilli. I prefer Barefoot Merlot for chilli making, mainly because it’s the only wine we ever have in the house. I’d love to know about wine and do sommelier courses, but for now we can assume I know nothing. (Chef’s note: always make sure to test the wine first by sitting down and having a glass after chopping all your vegetables – it’s the only way to be absolutely sure the wine will work with the dish.)

One carton of passata: Lidl do an excellent one for 23p. Can’t go wrong there.

Tin of skinned plum tomatoes. Almost as good in chilli as they are on toast.

Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chilli flakes and a dash of Worcestershire sauce – all to taste!

There’s madness in the method. Wait, I hear you say, that’s not right. I can assure you, dear readers, that when it comes to my style of cookery, there’s very rarely any method, it’s largely madness.

Put the onions, garlic and about half of the chillies in a saucepan with a teeny bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and luck. You want everything to be going brown around the edges when you take it off the heat, and to start looking all translucent and transparent and what not. Please note: the luck will be transparent prior to entering the pan, so don’t judge how your dish is doing by the transparency of your luck, or it will all go wrong.

When these items are cooked, add the mince – the best way is to tear it apart with your hands. Mainly because it’s much more fun than doing it any other way. You know I’m right.

Brown the mince off, mix it all together a bit and add the wine – keep it on the heat for a minute or two and then remove. From the heat, not from the kitchen. Ambiguity in recipes is cause for disaster, which I am learning as I write this. It has occurred to me that there are roughly 17 ways in which my previous instructions could be interpreted, but I like that, everyone needs a little room for creative manoeuvring, don’t they?

Anyway, this is the point where I tell you that all the ingredients are then transferred to my slow cooker and left on ‘low’ for approximately 8 hours while I finish off the wine. I only go back to the kitchen for A) more wine B) to taste/eat the chilli and add the secret ingredient or C) to hastily make the accompaniments I forgot about earlier. More on that in a minute.

Prior to having my wonderful slow cooker, I used to put my chilli in an electric wok and leave it on a low setting for much the same amount of time – I go back to it every hour or so to check on its progress and add things; a pinch of salt here, some more chilli flakes there, stir in a tablespoon on Marmite for good measure. Damn, I just gave away my secret ingredient – it’s true, I put Marmite in my chilli. It tastes amazing, and gives it a wonderful glossy texture that cannot be achieved by passata alone.

Try it, I dare you.

Now, I don’t serve my chilli with rice, mainly because I can’t ever get it right and it annoys me. I use tortillas (which I haven’t attempted making myself yet) salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

For the salsa: chop tomatoes and red onions first thing in the morning, add a touch of balsamic vinegar and leave in the fridge all day to soak in its own juices.

For the sour cream: This is for those who don’t like their chilli to burn their insides. Buy sour cream. Add roughly chopped coriander (especially the stalks, that’s the tastiest bit) and leave until you need to serve.

Grate some cheese – I use strong cheddar, because it’s great and I can.

The guacamole is my favourite thing!
4 avocadoes, blitzed in the blender with lime juice, a red chilli, cayenne pepper and reasonable chunks of red onion, for taste AND texture. It’s gorgeous, and I could just eat it all day. It’s even better the next day when all the flavours are a bit stronger and been mashed up together for longer. Another tip, I’m being useful today, look at me go: after making the guacamole, pop the avocado stones on top with some lime segments, this stops it going brown and provides some lovely decoration.

And there you have it, some chilli. Should feed around four or five people, provided they have regular appetites and have eaten regularly in the past two days. Otherwise, you’ll probably need a side of take away.

I did it! I hope it’s decipherable for anyone mad enough to want to cook my food!

Last tip for today, and it’s completely unrelated to everything I’ve mentioned so far, because, well, why not: When making your own houmous, don’t accidentally put too much tahini in, it ruins both the taste and texture. You will find yourself with two large tubs of beige stuff that you’ll spend a long time trying to foist off on people before realising that if they taste it, they’ll think you’re a rubbish cook, so you just leave it in the fridge and hope it tastes better tomorrow. It probably won’t, but it’s worth a shot.

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For want of some Basil, the dish was lost…

As I gratefully leave a hugely busy week at work in London, and head back to the sanctuary I’ve built for myself in my teeny tiny kitchen, I am saddened by the fact that I have accidentally murdered Basil, my aptly named basil plant.

His companion, Mint, on the other hand, is doing well. Mint is, surprisingly, a parsley plant, who has become very popular with the moth in residence.

Ha! Got you, there. It’s a mint plant, but he’s still in cahoots with Moth. I’m not very original with names; I think my mother might be secretly worrying that I will call my first child, “Child”. It’s better than some of the names that people give their children, but who am I to judge. I’ll scoff, but that’s different.

Anyway.

Whenever I have had, or been in the company of, a basil plant they have died within the space of a few weeks. My friend Oli had one in halls, and when we had a shared house we probably went through three or four, which all unfortunately perished in an annoyingly short space of time. It’s an exasperating non-problem, I can already hear the meme generators firing up so teenagers can laugh at me for being upset by my lack of basil.

I honestly thought I could keep one alive this time, but either my basil plants all have death wishes or I’m doing something wrong and, as much as I want it to be the former, it’s probably my fault and my plans to make pesto are dashed forever.

That might be slightly melodramatic, but there’s a touch of “Hysterical Georgian Woman” in us all, and I like to channel mine when I cook – it’s either that or pretend I’m on Come Dine With Me.

Right, I’m going to stop anthropomorphising plants and channelling Georgian women, and get on with what I really wanted to talk about this week and had no time to: I bought a slow cooker last weekend, and I love it.

I trust my slow cooker in a way I could never trust my saucepans, they’re cheeky and might boil over or explode at the drop of a hat, so I can never leave the kitchen. Ever. Even when nothing’s cooking.

But my slow cooker – that’s a different story! I can tidy, hang laundry, watch Star Trek, the possibilities are endless. However, it’s probably those three things that I’ll be doing, because I don’t really get out much and when I do, I buy slow cookers.

I have only used it once so far, to make a chicken curry, and boy was it delicious! It’s also being put to use this weekend to make a sausage casserole, and a vat of chilli that I will have to try very hard not to stick my face in. I love chilli.

I am going to try to get my slapdash “chuck it all in” method of cookery down on paper as a proper recipe so watch this space if you’re interested in things of that nature. Not this exact space, you know what I mean. Move on.

I find conventional recipes lack excitement, and mystery – the spice of life and whatnot. So in the words of a popular movie franchise (which probably should have ended after the 4th movie but didn’t and now we have to live with that):

“I want to play a game.”

I’m not telling you what the secret ingredient is in my chilli. You’ll either have to guess, or deduce it from the clues given, which I think is pretty fair, considering it’s supposed to be secret in the first place and it’s not going to end in improbable torture scenarios.

However, I should just tell you anyway, because I want your chilli to taste nice.

This is another one of those ‘dilemmas’ I keep hearing about, isn’t it? Or are they more serious, like the times you go to grab some mint leaves and instead grab a handful of Moth, who was sleeping on a leaf, the tricky git.

I think I might need to get out more, before I start giving the furniture personalities. Alternatively, I could stay in with Slow Cooker, Blender and Hob and make something delicious.

Decisions, decisions!

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What a load of old (River) Cobblers!

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I’m sure there are many people out there who think that one smoked fish tastes largely like another, and I suppose in a way they have a point. Of course, there are a myriad of other ways in which they’re probably wrong – but I’m not going into that now. So, if one fish does taste largely like another, why are people so insistent on only buying the ones they know about?

Think about it this way, there are a number of people out there who go out of their way to eat ‘exotic’ meats like snake, alligator and ostrich. It is a possibility that a large amount of people try these meats so that they can then waffle on about it at dinner parties: “Look at me, look at what I’ve endangered, please marvel in my brilliance and exemplary taste buds”. I may be guilty of indulging in a morsel of hyperbole there. But it was this attitude that killed off the dodo.

Oops, there I go again.

What I mean to say is that there is a strange dichotomy between meat and fish in terms of what many of us are willing to try. There are people I am personally acquainted with (I won’t go so far as to say friends) who have checklists of “meats to eat before you die”. Where’s their fish list, hmmm? There are lots of tasty fishes out there. Fish. Fishes. Fisheseses. Never mind.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to try different things, I’m just trying to point out how people treat fish differently. I’m also not trying to say that this applies to all the people in the world, before anyone becomes unjustly offended. I’m sure you’ve tried all kinds of fish… Right?

Strangely, the consumption of fish also seems to be affected by aesthetics in a strange way. People only seem to want to eat the “pretty” fish, and by that I mean the ones that don’t have weird fins and tentacles on their faces, not the ones you keep in your aquarium. I’m not entirely sure how pretty a fish can really be, but I’m hoping you know what I mean. And again, it’s the total opposite for meat – with people balking at eating anything with a snuffly nose or big, doe like eyes.

But we turn our noses up at ugly fish. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice. Not that she should be any kind of judge after eating all those dubious mushrooms.

You may wonder what triggered a normally sane person, such as myself, to start thinking about how the aesthetics of a fish’s face affects whether people will eat it or not, well it has something to do with the picture up there. Go on, scroll back up and take a good look – I’ll wait here.

Back? Excellent. Ok, so I love smoked fish, it’s been a favourite since I was very young… In my quest for quick and simple food I thought that grilled fish and vegetables with fresh basil and lemon would be a perfect way of being able to put supper on, go and do things, and come back later. I was right about that, but that’s not the point.

Whilst looking for some smoked fish in a large retailer (before I discovered the wondrous Lidl) I had a minor shock. Smoked haddock is incredibly expensive for what you get. Pfft, I thought to myself, I’m not paying that…

Then I found the River Cobbler, which is available both smoked and unsmoked. I’d never heard of it before, but it looked appetising enough and it was 2 pounds for 2 fillets which, as you saw in the picture, are rather large!

I was amazed and bought them without delay, making them my star purchase for the week. Yes, I really am that person.

After eating this delicious, smoky, meaty, fishy fish of deliciousness (too much?) I decided to see if there were any recipes I was missing out on and looked it up on Google. I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to use Google as a verb, much like the word party.

Anyways, it turns out River Cobbler is the English term for Vietnamese catfish, and boy, is that an ugly fish. There were so many people online saying how they could never bring themselves to eat something so ugly, and so this little known fish is getting bad press based on its looks. It’s the Susan Boyle of the fish world. I don’t think that’s particularly fair, and I’m sure you don’t either now.

So, I urge you all to widen your fish horizons and try River Cobbler. It’s a cheaper alternative to haddock, and I’m pretty sure it has a better taste. I’m going to be visiting my parents soon, and they’ll be trying my new recipe for River Cobbler risotto, and they have to enjoy it, because I’ll sulk otherwise. I’m kidding, of course.

And dinner parties will never be the same – because I can guarantee that while people are waxing lyrical about their bison burgers, you’ll be the only person with a River Cobbler under their belt.

Please don’t actually put one under your belt though, you won’t be invited back if you do, and you’ll probably start attracting cats on your way home.

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