Cooking At Zero Degrees

This is a blog (it also works on an ipad and now has a Facebook page) about what we eat at home.  Starters, mains, sauces, side dishes, cocktails and links to local shops. It’s all here.

Food is fun,  it should be fun to make and fun to eat. For some people making a meal is a chore. If it is then don’t do it;  but please, it’s better to eat something, anything, that you make at home from scratch, because prepared, packaged supermarket dinners  and food have about as much flavour as the plastic or cardboard package they come in.  Food cultivation and husbandry is not just a moral argument.  Eggs that don’t come from battery hens do taste better, cattle properly reared have more flavour -  and just think about it: at its most simple, if they’re not being pumped full of chemicals then you’re not being pumped full of chemicals. How good is that? If you can buy local, use your neighbourhood shops, you will miss them when they are gone.  Most of all, have fun making a meal of it!

Oh, and why at zero degrees? Because that’s where we live – in Greenwich, London.

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Crayfish and Prawns on Toast

Crayfish Tails and Prawns

Crayfish Tails and Prawns

When the weather changes, something light is called for. This little number was pulled together at the weekend. It can be a starter or main course. Actually, if you make it for small rounds of toast then it can even be a small canape with some drinks. It is that versatile and easy to make. The list of ingredients isn’t too long, and it is brought together very simply. However, it packs a lovely fresh and light taste. Perfect for spring into summer.  This feeds four and the method is the simplest yet.

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Scones

Scones

Scones

Spring has sprung, although this is something that can be cooked all year round. It is not particularly a spring dish just a tea time dish I have finally been able to bake. Hands up, I admit it, previously my scones didn’t rise and were more like hard rock cakes. No more. This really does work, and you can make them in about 30 minutes including baking time. I have made them when I got home from the pub, so they really are that easy. The only tip is don’t over-work them. If you do then you will have rock cakes.

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Tian of Crab and Avocado

imageThe thing about Christmas lunch is that you want it to look special, but it helps if the appetizer isn’t overly filling or a pain to make. This one hits on both counts. First you make it in advance, and just take it from the fridge and put it onto the plate before serving. Second, the light crab flavour, with the coriander hit smoothed by that silky avocado mix is a magical start to Christmas lunch. This can feed six, personally I prefer this for four and get a bit more out of it. Some wholemeal toast on the side, with butter in the dish add to the delight of it all.

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Cooking a Turkey.

It is that time of year when perfectly sensible people, who cook Sunday lunch all year round, suddenly begin to panic about cooking a turkey. The idea is that you should shove it in the oven and enjoy your Christmas as much as your guests. So while this isn’t strictly a recipe, it might go some way to helping you get a less stressful Christmas. Usual rules apply, a frozen turkey should be thoroughly defrosted, and check it is fully cooked before serving. I don’t stuff the neck or cavity of the bird, this only adds to cooking time and sometimes better results come from making the stuffing separately. Don’t forget the roast potatoes, cabbage or the red wine sauce, and those quick sausage rolls.

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Egg Nog

Egg Nog

Egg Nog

This is one of those drinks that I have always wanted to make. It’s not that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas with out it, but until I had made my own and sipped from its delicious alcoholic creaminess I knew I wouldn’t be happy. So I coerced an American friend to provide me with her family recipe, and this is it. Let me also tell you that this is brazen in its alcoholic lure. You can change out the levels of rum and whiskey, but try it like this first and then make your own version. Have a cool yule.

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Cottage Pie

The weather hasn’t entirely turned (yet!) but in my house it doesn’t need to be cold for this dish to arrive on the table. It is one of my all time favourites, and carries with it more memories of family dinner that I could probably completely remember. It is the smooth richness of the meat and sauce, the nod to the vegetables and the deep silk mashed potato on top, browned and crispy just calling out to be eaten. Like lasagne I make a ragu sauce the day before, then put it all together in the dish for the oven. I think it tastes better that way, but you can put it on the hob and cook it down much more quickly. This feeds six.

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Braised Ox Cheek

Winter is coming. In our house it comes with braised meats, stews and soups. What is it about braised meats, falling at the gentle push of the fork into their rich and deep gravy that brings out the home lover in us all? The first beauty of this dish is that it is a cheap cut of meat, the second, that it must be slowly braised over time giving an intense flavour so less faffing, and the third that it can be reheated on the day you need so that it gets hot and you don’t have to.  You can serve on the day you cook it, but it’s up to you. I love serving this on potato and parsnip puree and with some wilted spinach. If you don’t use it all, then reheat it pull it apart and serve it soft buns as a pulled beef dish.

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Prawn Cocktail

Prawn Cocktail

Prawn Cocktail

Well, it’s hot in London. So hot, that it reminds me of the last time it felt this way – to me at least – and that’s back in the 1970′s. So, what am I to do but revert back to a favourite from then, Prawn Cocktail. There is a reason it is still going strong today; cold crunchy lettuce, sharp hit of the Marie Rose sauce, and the beautiful taste of the sea from the prawns. This is an absolute treat when the weather is like it is. Silky, cold and a reminder of summers. Eat with some toasted crusty bread, serve with lemon on the side. Feeds four.

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Lasagne.

Lasagne

Lasagne

I have a thing at the moment for making dishes that can be put in the middle of the table and people can help themselves. I suppose it makes for ease of cooking (no fancy plating up) but also means  you are there when people are sitting around the table and with (in this case) the wine, salad and garlic bread it’s easier to just enjoy the moment. Anyway, with this weather day before preparation is best; you can stay away from the heat of the kitchen when your friends arrive. Lasagne is a best eaten the day after it is prepared. After re-heating in the oven, place in the middle of the  table and let people spoon for themselves. This feeds six.

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Scandinavian New Potato Salad – Färskpotatissalad

Sometimes you need that potato salad thing going, but don’t want to go through the effort of celery, bacon and all the other stuff. So here is a quick Scandinavian potato salad. It has a freshness about it, and works (as you would expect) really well with fish. It is also quick and cheap. Continue reading

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