Tag Archives: cat

Simple suppers and sick cats

This week has been a little hectic not least because it kicked off with a Monday morning visit to the vet. Our cat’s been an utter nightmare for a couple of weeks, for lots of reasons but mostly because she’s been bullied by a naughty neighbourhood tom who managed to sneak in through the cat flap and help himself to her food. Naturally, this has made her incredibly stressed so she’s been leaving hugely unpleasant cat reminders all over our home to make sure we know about it. We’ve now filled our home with Feliways to make her feel calmer and it seems to be working – she’s still a little insane but there’s no poop in the dining room so fingers crossed she’s feeling calmer. I mean, she doesn’t exactly look stressed anymore, huh?

She looks much happier now.

With all that and everything else happening this week, I’ve not really had a chance to go to the supermarket so have been relying on the darkest corners of the fridge, freezer and pantry to make supper. And because it finally feels like Spring is here, I’ve been trying to watch what I eat a little more. So this week has mostly been about soups and simple stews. And I can’t stop buying daffodils to spring up the house. They’re so pretty.

Spring on my window

After the supperclub, I froze a leftover pork loin. It had been marinaded in coriander, garlic and cumin, then roasted for about 12 minutes, till the internal temperature reached 68C. I defrosted it, sliced it thinly and decided to make a pork, mushroom and cabbage soup. I fried some ginger, chilli and garlic till all soft, then added a couple of pints of water, with a little fish sauce, soy sauce, a tsp of sugar and salt, and let that simmer for about 6-7 minutes so all the flavours infused the stock. I then threw in half a finely shredded savoy cabbage and a handful of sliced mushrooms, before adding the pork (remember it was already cooked so didn’t need long) and cooking the whole lot for about 10 minutes.Finished it with a handful of fresh coriander. I was going to add noodles to the mix but I forgot. Don’t think we needed it though – was lovely, light and the whole thing took less than 20 minutes to make. I forgot to take a photo but trust me, it was good shit.

Then on Wednesday night, my wino had been away for a couple of nights so I made a meal that he’d like and that I was a bit meh about. That’s love, that is.

I decided to make a fake ratatouille as we had a lot of leftover tomatoes and a couple of courgettes that were a couple of days from being thrown away. I don’t really like courgettes (or tomatoes) but I do hate waste. I served it with fennel and thyme pan fried cod. Ratatouille recipe below.

Pan Roasted Cod

Courgettes, peppers, chickpeas in a tomato and herb sauce

  • 15 ripe cherry tomatoes (or 5 normal sized ones)
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red chilli (I used the big fat ones as I didn’t want it to be hot)

Method

  • Usually I wouldn’t do this but I had time to kill so if you don’t want tomato skins in your final dish, cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato and place cross side up in a high sided dish or baking tin. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, leave for 20 seconds, then drain away the hot water and plunge into a bowl of cold water then peel them. If you don’t have the time or inclination, just slice them in half (or quarters if they’re normal sized) and leave them to one side
  • Slice the courgettes thickly (about 1.5-2cm), put in a colander and sprinkle salt over them – this takes away some of the moisture and helps them retain their shape in a stew-y dish. Leave aside for at least 45 mins then rinse the salt off
  • Roughly chop the rest of your veg
  • Using a deep casserole dish (I used a Le Crueset) fry the onions, chilli and garlic in olive oil over a medium heat till they soften then remove from the pan
  • Add a little more olive oil and lightly fry the courgette slices until they’re browned
  • Return the onions, garlic, chilli to the pan, then add the peppers and mushrooms, tomatoes and season. Give the whole thing a stir – if it feels a little dry, add a small amount of water – remember, there’s a lot of water in the tomatoes so don’t put too much in unless you want a really watery stew.
  • Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low simmer, add the sprigs of thyme and cover. Leave like this for at least 20 mins, giving it a stir every few minutes
  • After 20 mins, take off the lid and throw in the chickpeas. Leave this, with the lid off (so it reduces a little) for another 8-12 minutes
  • During this final stage prepare your fish – sprinkle salt, pepper and a tsp of fennel seeds (I put some thyme on too as I had a lot of thyme in the fridge!)
  • Heat a frying pan and once the oil is hot, add the fish, leaving it too cook on one side for a couple of minutes, till you can see the colour start to change then flip over
  • Throw a knob of butter into the pan at this stage and use it to baste the fish
  • Should only take about 4 minutes to cook the fish

To serve, spoon the ratatouille into bowls, sprinkle over some thyme leaves, place the fish on top and serve with crusty bread

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Christmas Crackers (for cheese)

We’re big fans of cheese in this house. Blue, soft, hard, goats, cows, sheep(s), we’ll eat it all. And there’s nothing better than a good cracker to have with your cheese, maybe with a little touch of quince jelly or a grape or two to make the cheese feel a little more virtuous.

I’m hungry now.

I’ve never really given much thought to crackers, given that they’re mostly just a vehicle for speedy and clean delivery of cheese to mouth. But as I’ve had a lot more time on my hands recently, I’ve been talking to the cat about crackers. Or maybe I’m crackers for talking to the cat. Regardless, I recently found myself on a cracker making mission (mostly because there were none in the house and I was loathe to change out of my pajamas at 4pm to buy some. Stay classy, Vins.).

Crackers

A few years ago, a group of us hired a cottage in Devon for New Year’s Eve. Being typical Londoners, we filled the car with booze, cheese, duvets and an essential Xbox (including Singstar) and assumed that upon arrival there’d be a corner shop nearby in which we could find some food for that evening, before doing a proper supermarket shop the next day. Bear in mind, we arrived around 4pm on a Sunday and had chosen the cottage for it’s remote location. Yup, we’re townie twats. No shops to be found, but we had packed some flour in amongst the wine and the taps had running water so we fashioned some flatbreads and ate those with cheese. Not the worst meal ever – in fact, that meal is one of my favourite memories of that trip (I was drunk most of the rest of the time).

So my brain goes, if I can fashion flatbreads out of flour and water, just imagine how amazing my crackers would be with a cupboard full of ingredients and Google?

Google shows me that many other people have had much the same thought so my cracker mission starts with a couple of hours of reading recipes until I eventually find myself nodding along to this article from The Washington Post, which leads me to this recipe, also in the Washington Post from Pat Elliot at Everona Dairy. She’s a cheesemaker and developed these crackers to go with her cheese. Perfect for my needs.

The base recipe is just about perfect on it’s own – light, a little salty, delicious and a perfect cheese delivery system. But sometimes you just want a cracker (not often) so like Pat, I thought I’d experiment with my own flavours and so made four variants – cheddar, fennel, cinnamon sugar (that was hers, FYI) and parmesan, fennel and cumin seeds.

The recipe is below or via the links above. According to the WP journalist, these were a fraction of the cost of buying them – I didn’t cost them up but I’d completely agree, and this recipe makes between 80-100 bite sized crackers – which last a couple of weeks if you don’t eat them all at first sitting (which I definitely did).

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (and more for dusting)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 stick (57g ish) butter at room temp, cubed
  • 1/2 cup hand warm water (use sparingly)

Method (stage one)

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 7 (or equivalent)
  • Whisk together dry ingredients
  • Using rubbing in method, as if you’re making pastry, rub in the butter till you get a texture like fine breadcrumbs
  • Once you have a texture you’re happy with, without any lumps, gradually add the warm water until the dough is just combined
  • Turn onto a floured surface and give a quick knead until the dough is smooth
  • Split into four equally sized balls and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes in warm place

Whilst you’re waiting for the dough to rest, consider your toppings. What I used is below, but feel free to adapt to your own tastes – just be careful to not change the consistency of the dough. There are other variants available via the recipe link above.

Toppings/flavours (amount per ball)

  • 25g grated cheddar (use a microplane)
  • 25g parmesan grated (as above)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

Method (stage two)

  • Take your first ball and flatten a little
  • Cover the top of the ball with the 25g cheddar and fold/knead in till its all incorporated – should only be a minute or two. If you overknead, your crackers will end up dry and overworked
  • Once your dough is relatively smooth again, flatten out again, dust your board and rolling pin and start rolling
  • Keep rolling (picking up, redusting and rotating as you go) till you can practically see the board through the dough – this will take some time and a lot of upper body strength. Keep going, imagine the cheesy crackers you’ll have at the end of it
  • Once they’re thin, cut them into your desired shape – I started with squares and then realised it’d be much easier with a cookie cutter – the smallest ring size (I want to say 6cm but I could be lying) is the perfect bite size
  • Transfer the crackers to a lightly floured baking sheet and prick with a fork
  • Bake for 8-12 minutes until the tops are golden – you may need to move them around on the tray during baking in order to ensure the ones on the outside don’t get burned
  • Cool on a wire rack

The method is much the same for all the other topping ideas – I mixed the seeds with the parmesan but incorporated it all at the same time.

If you’re using cinnamon sugar, get your unbaked crackers rolled and cut and onto the baking sheet, then sprinkle with sugar before baking. Word to the wise, sugar burns so keep a very close eye on these unless you want them very ‘caramelised’.

Since I first discovered this recipe a fortnight ago, I’ve probably made them once a week. They’re really good and really easy – and apparently cost effective too. Enjoy!

A selection of crackers

Reasons to be thankful. 1, 2, 3.

I’ve been doing a lot of complaining and bitching and moaning this year. In fairness, it has been a crappy arse of a year.

However, on Sunday, I officially entered the last year of my 30s and for the last month I’ve been on gardening leave, so it’s been a long period of reflection and contemplation. A little like Lizzie in The Walking Dead, I’ve been looking at the flowers (thankfully, I don’t have a Carol in my life though) and I’ve realised I’ve got a bucketload of things to be utterly grateful for. So here they are in no particular order.

  • My family (immediate and extended). They are an utter bunch of weirdos but I wouldn’t change ’em
  • Mr Wino (aka the husband). Slightly less of a weirdo than the above, but still peculiar in his own special and indeed fabulous way
  • Forever buddies/chums/gangs of awesome. Yes, sometimes they drive you insane, yes sometimes they let you down but let’s be honest, you’ve done the same to them. Ultimately these people are your brothers and sisters and whilst they may take a bullet for you, they’re just as likely to laugh at you when you fall over. Perfection
  • Rekindling old friendships and forging new ones
  • Autumn. Living in a world where seasons exist is something to be stupidly grateful for, particularly in Autumn when the skies are blue and the clouds are fluffy and there’s dew on the grass and a nip in the air
  • The Supermoon. This summer’s supermoon was incredible, watching it rise and glide across the skies above my garden was a treat
  • Discovering far flung places. We’re so lucky to live in a time where it’s affordable to jump on a plane and in a few hours, experience something so utterly different to the world we live in and learn from that. Or just to go shopping.
  • The internet. If you can’t jump on a plane, you can still learn about the world at the click of a button or a well worded search. And you can buy clothes and look at pictures of cats/food/clouds/doge or watch videos of animals doing ridiculous things. What else do you need?
  • Books. I’ve had a Kindle for a number of years, but I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of actual physical books. I’m in awe of people who can craft words into beautiful phrases that make your heart sing with joy
  • Being a woman. This is a short list, so I’m not going to go in depth here, but being a woman is fucking awesome for reasons that I’ll explain in a future post. I’m sure you all agree with me anyway
  • Being a woman of colour. As a woman of colour, fast approaching 40 who felt like there was nothing out there that spoke to her as a teen, I’ve been inspired by the likes of The Aerogram and Brown Girl magazine for giving young Asian women today a voice and hopefully helping them realise they’re not alone
  • Having a roof above my head and food to eat. Obviously.
  • My cat. She’s got a number of curious quirks and strange habits due to being abused (we assume) but there’s nothing that makes you feel more loved than when she miaows at you until you feed her. And then ignores you.
  • Being frivolous. Often it’s wise to ignore the voices in your head that tell you that a beanie with a veil is utterly nonsense. If it’s going to make you happy and you’re not going to starve yourself for a month to afford it, buy it. We all deserve a treat now and again.

I’m sure there’s more but I’m leaving it there for now for fear of becoming one of those list people who can only write in bullet-ed form. Which is a distinct possibility.

What are you grateful for? Let’s fill this page with joy and wondrousness. And until then, here are some pictures of my ridiculous cat. It is the internet, after all.

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