Happy New Year

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My New Year wishes are, I trust, better late than never.  So that’s it for another year and we can get back to normal, whatever “normal” is.  The tree has been taken down and is currently awaiting collection in our front garden; all the decorations have been stored away in the spare room cupboard; and Sons 1 and 2 have returned to work, in Cambridge and London respectively.  It was so lovely to have them at home, sometimes with and sometimes without the girlfriend of one and  the fiancée of the other, and although I should be used to it, I always feel a little sad when they’ve gone; not too sad, mind, because, as my mother says, if your children are happy to leave home, then you have probably done a good job as a parent.  Son 3 stayed on for an extra couple of days which softened the blow, as much for his younger brother as for their parents.  We all love films but Son 3 is the proper film buff of the family and at his suggestion we sat down on Monday evening to watch Singin’ in the Rain.   I hadn’t seen it for years and had forgotten just how marvellous it is and what a wonderful actress the late Debbie Reynolds was: RIP.  He returned to London with his dad yesterday, leaving youngest son and me, and Granny in her flat downstairs, in a very quiet house until the weekend.

Before he left I borrowed one of his Christmas presents to make supper: the book Fresh India by Meera Sodha, which is on the bestseller lists.  Having eaten so much meat over Christmas we were all craving meat-free dishes and the aubergine and pea curry fitted the bill.  The last thing I need is another cookbook but if this recipe is anything to go by, I might be adding this book to my birthday wish list.

Aubergine and Pea Curry

  • 5 tbps rapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsps tomato purée
  • 1 1/2 level tsps salt
  • 1 1/4 tsps chilli powder (unless like mine, yours is very hot, in which case use less)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 medium aubergines 1.2kg, chopped into 3cms cubes
  • 100g (I used 200g) peas (fresh or defrosted)
  • Put the oil in a wide-bottomed lidded pan on the simmering plate (conventional hob: medium heat).  Once hot, add the cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil.  Cook (in the simmering oven) for 15-30 minutes until translucent but not brown.  Add the garlic and stir-fry for a couple of minutes
  • Add the tomatoes and purée and cover with a lid.  Leave to cook for 5 minutes (or longer in the simmering oven), then add the salt, chilli powder, turmeric and sugar and cook for a further couple of minutes
  • Now add the aubergines, coating the pieces with the masala, pop the lid back on the pan and cook for around 10 minutes (or longer in the simmering oven).  You want the aubergines to be tender and soft with little or no water running from them.  If they’re watery or not yet tender, they may need another few minutes’ cooking
  • When they’re cooked, add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Serve with hot chapattis or plain boiled Basmati rice

NB:

  • I used one of those large round aubergines from Natoora.  It weighed 620g and I was worried it would not be enough but it was plenty.  Am therefore a little baffled by the aubergine quantity recommended in the book. Would it not have led to a very dry curry?
  • Also: I only used 5 cloves of garlic and 1 large onion.

 

Apologies that I don’t have a photo of this dish (but then nor does the book!).  Instead here are a few photos of our Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Film Club Supper alla Bolognese

I belong to a little film club comprising eight friends.  We meet every six weeks or so and take it in turns to host.  The hostess (yes, we are all female) chooses the film and makes supper which we eat at the start of the evening, usually, but not always, sitting at a kitchen or dining room table.  Pudding and/or chocolates tend to be consumed on the sofa while watching the film.  We are allowed to pause the film for loo breaks, to make tea and coffee or to comment on or ask each other questions about the film.  It’s great fun.

We’ve watched a wide range of films over the years, both foreign language and English.  It was my turn to host our last meeting and I chose the film Carol with Cate Blanchett and Roony Mara.  I always mean to go to the cinema to see the Oscar nominated films but invariably don’t get around to it, so film club presents an excellent opportunity.  And it’s so easy to watch films these days.  On this occasion all I did was log on to Amazon Instant Video to rent the film and within seconds it was available to watch.

We liked the film very much.  It is beautiful and moving and Cate Blanchett’s performance is every bit as good as one has come to expect.  But I will leave film reviews to others and move on to important matters like the food!

Supper was Rick Stein’s Bolognese sausage ragù with tagliatelle.  I’d recently watched his programme from Bologna in which he’d toured that city’s food markets and restaurants.  It had transported me back to a wonderful holiday we’d enjoyed in that region of Italy when we’d also discovered its delicious cucina.

During the programme Stein made the ragù and I decided there and then to make it for film club.  My guests were too polite to say so but I know it was a little dry.  I was trying not to add too much wine/stock/cream to adjust for the fact that, as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Agas are brilliant at retaining moisture.  But I went too far and felt we could have done with a little more creaminess to coat the strands of tagliatelle.  The flavour, however, was superb: with the aroma of fennel, rosemary and chilli, we could almost have been in Bologna.  I will definitely be making it again soon and might update this post if I get the liquid:sausagemeat ratio right next time, but for  now, here’s the recipe with my suggestions based on my experience.

By the way, I made double the BBC recipe linked to above (there were seven of us eating that night) and cooked, I felt, a little too much tagliatelle (750g).  I didn’t add all of it to the ragù but there was still plenty; nor did I emulate Rick Stein and make my own pasta.  I chose this very good quality one by  “Artigiano Pastaio” which is not cheap but worth it for a treat.

Finally, at the last minute, with my friends arriving on the doorstep, I remembered just in time to take a few photos.   Taking photos of the food needs to become second nature to me and I must learn to ignore my family when they roll their eyes at me for holding up the meal in order to take pics, or I won’t be able to call myself a blogger.

Ingredients

(For 4 people)

  • 400g fresh or good quality dried tagliatelle (or homemade as per Rick Stein’s recipe)
  • 400g sausagement
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, roughly ground in pestle and mortar
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • I large clove garlic, crushed
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 150ml double cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan to serve

Method

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole on the boiling plate and break up the sausagemeat into it.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time, moving it to the simmering plate if it seems too hot
  • Add the onion, celery, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and rosemary and cook for about 15 minutes until the onion is soft.  You can do this in the simmering oven, maybe for a little longer than 15 minutes
  • Add the garlic, give it a stir and then pour in the white wine.  Cook for 10 minutes or so on the simmering plate until it’s reduced.  Then add 100ml of stock and 100ml of cream, season, let it come to a simmer then cover with a lid.  Cook in the simmering oven for 30 minutes or so and take a look.  If you think it looks a bit dry add the rest of the stock and cream.
  • You can leave it for an hour or two in the simmering oven.  When you’re nearly ready to eat, cook the tagliatelle according to packet instructions and when it’s al dente, drain, add it to the ragù and mix it in.

Serve with a dressed green salad.

 

I haven’t posted for a while so here are photos of other things we’ve been eating lately.  First, I made Mamma Moore’s apple cake again, but this time with rhubarb, of which my allotment-owning sister-in-law brought a whole load when she visited recently.  It worked superbly; rhubarb and ginger have a real affinity.

And then last night we had the simplest of seasonal dishes: trout caught the night before by my husband’s friend, baked in the oven with lemon juice, butter and parsley and accompanied by Jersey Royal new potatoes, carrots and fresh peas.