I don't know about you, but Paul and I love this time of year in terms of cookery. Our attention turns to all those lovely warming, hearty, tasty, probably too calorific, sauce laden, gravy topped, casserole, stew, and oven baked dishes (i'm now salivating), that aim to provide comfort and warmth, not to mention the extra inches around the waist and man boobs. Sorry about that nugget of too much information, but for men of a certain age who've never seen a gym, it's a reality.
We have a set of recipes that we always go to; some turn out exactly the same each time, some have variations depending on what is available to play with. Some may be constructed entirely from leftovers like the mashed potato omelette that I am famous for (well, in our house anyway), where you simply mix eggs into left over mash, add some grated cheese, and add to already sauteed onions, red/green pepper and frozen peas, and fry to brown the bottom (in a non-stick pan preferably) and grill to finish off. Served with Linda McCartney veggie sausages it makes a quick meal or indeed a fabulous cooked breakfast. These types of dishes give a good amount of nutrition, can be calorie heavy, but aren't eaten everyday.
Other staple dishes in our house include the veggie chili, lasagna, cottage pie, Quorn fillet stew, Quorn fillet fajitas, macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, veggie bolognese, any kind of veggie curry, and all manner of veggie soups. Most of this can be supplemented with fresh salad leaves on the side or extra steamed veg. More importantly, all leftovers are used up. You can even blitz salad leftovers into a soup!
Most people in the UK over a certain age will be familiar with Bubble and Squeak, which is traditionally made with leftover potatoes and cabbage fried up together. We make this on a regular basis usually with any cooked veggies that are available, combined in a bowl, then fried gently in a little olive oil until golden brown and served with whatever protein source you like. The other night we did a bubble and squeak with potato mash, kale, carrots, broccoli, a little grated cheddar and served it with scrambled eggs - delicious and very quick to make. The next time we have leftover mash we will do a little video for those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of bubble and squeak which is named after the noises it makes in the pan as it's cooking.
We do attempt to make our recipes as healthy as we can. We don't fry or saute at too high a temperature and only use small amounts of good olive oil. Our downfall is cheese and portion control. We both have great appetites (we always have had) and find it immensely difficult to resist a second helping of a delicious winter meal. They say you should wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds to allow all the messages of fullness to reach the brain... and the dish will go cold in that time making it slightly less appealing and more likely to be consigned to the fridge for the following day which is the best option. Nowadays, we do have more self control but occasionally we do slip and whoops, the whole lasagna just disappears.
Our new Facebook group Planet Vegetaria is about to launch and one of our goals is to fill it with healthy recipes and ideas aimed at people who are wanting to cut down on their meat intake and eat inexpensively and more ethically. We're not vegan as you know, but over time we may well reach that stage. But for the moment we still enjoy a little fish, cheese, butter and yogurt although we don't use cows milk on a regular basis. If there is a message to be gleaned from the group it would include phrases like - buy local, buy cheaply, shop around, use the smaller stores, be frugal, plan your meals and learn more about nutrition. I know convenience is king when it comes to big families, but if you look back 40-50 years ago, people were managing without any of the modern conveniences we now have, families were larger and children just as greedy. Consumerism, demand and the pursuit of choice will be the end of us. I think it's also worth remembering that cookery doesn't necessarily involve spending hours and hours in the kitchen making complex recipes and this is especially true if you are constructing a dish with leftovers!
We would love you to share your favourite veggie winter dishes with us as the season progresses either here, or on Facebook. I think we can all learn from each other. Home cooked freestyle food is very often the tastiest, especially if the accent is on economy and using up what you already have in the cupboards rather than eating prepackaged, expensive, over salted, over sugared, mass produced "food". This is not food. It's a marketing concept designed to get you to spend money.
We've been sent a lovely gift from a fellow YouTuber Island Kitchen Garden, and we received it this morning. Here we are unboxing it... how lovely!!!
Life in the London suburbs can be a pain in the backside sometimes. I'm sure some of you remember me talking about building work, noise and pollution in videos on You Tube. Well, I am banging on about it here again! For the past 5 years at least, so many of the surrounding houses in our neighbourhood have had extensions, excavations, summer houses, loft conversions etc. I understand that many people do this as they cannot afford to buy a larger property in the same area, so they extend. Great. I have no problem with that at all. But, when it starts to become an almost constant process that is happening all around you most days, it begins to concern me. There are multiple issues.
Noise primarily - deep, almost subsonic banging noises that reverberate through the walls and the foundations. Goodness knows what is being shaken loose in our old house. I've only just filled the recurrent cracks. Why, just an hour ago, the wooden chair I'm sat on actually felt like it was attached to a vibrator. Not entirely unpleasant but the accompanying noise didn't add to the experience, and any hope of a cheap thrill was soon quashed.
The dust. Goodness knows what is thrown up into the atmosphere, but we have to keep our windows closed at the mere whiff of a building project, otherwise I can taste the dust. I cleaned the bathroom last week and where the window had been left open (as we like a good airflow in the house) the area was covered in dark brown dust. Vile.
Skips. The roads in this area always have a good number of skips filled to the brim with builders waste. More often than not, they aren't covered, inadequate lighting on them at night, and the odd drunken person peering out from the rubble. They sit there like ghostly metal boats rusted and battered, filled with so many useful pieces that you have to resist diving in and rescuing that parquet flooring. I hope all the stuff gets recycled. Where does it go? A few years ago i reversed into one outside our house - Paul wasn't too pleased and the car still bears the scar.
Sweary builders. Why is it that many builders seem to need to shout at each other in streams of swear words? I've noticed these are often attached to the tools - for example, a common request might be "pass me the b*****d drill" or "where is the f*****g hammer?" Don't get me wrong, i have a foul mouth too, but I don't tend to shout several variations of vagina across the rooftops in a family neighbourhood. Have a little respect. Or learn some less offensive versions - fanjita is better.
Vans. Oh goodness me - the area is now like a builders yard car park - I'm so not kidding. All shapes and sizes, very often bumped up onto the pavement, completely blocking access for anyone, let alone someone in a wheelchair or disability scooter. Many vans do appear to be of questionable roadworthiness. Indeed, one actually tried to run me off the road by speeding up as I was crossing my street - I got caught on the road as I couldn't actually get to the pavement due to parked cars. I waved my umbrella at him - I said "you were actually going to hit me" He replied with the obvious statement "you're on the road". I pointed out to him that the highway code does state that a vehicle must stop if someone is in the road and as this is a quiet residential street this should be entirely possible. His intelligent response to this was to call me a prick. So my intelligent response was to take a picture of his van and number plate and report him for dangerous driving.
Deliveries of building materials - really - at 8.30am, completely blocking the road??? People are trying to get to work and psychotic mothers are attempting to drop off their precious ones at the local school - that's asking for trouble. The mothers in this area are a primal force to be reckoned with, especially when in charge of a four by four, which every mother owns. By 8.45am they will kill in order to get little Tarquil and Petunia to school on time.
I blame the television programmes - Grand Designs in particular. Selling people the idea that their pokey Victorian semi can become a huge amazing modern living space is all well and good. But it's making people greedy for more space. Space doesn't equal happiness necessarily - George Clarke will tell you that. I guess evolution has pushed us to the point where nothing but palatial surroundings with oversized octo-fold doors will do. How do they all afford it? Paul and I would have to go further into massive debt to afford any extensions to our house - the mortgage is bad enough. I thought the age of austerity was about helping people to live within their means - clearly this is a complete myth - homeowners are piling on the debt just for a wet room and an extra loo. On top of that, what is the environmental impact? Are all these building companies using the latest environmentally friendly guilt free materials? I think not.
What also annoys me, is the fact that the local council allows multiple projects to take place at the same time with no consideration for people who occupy their homes during the day. For example, mums and babies, elderly people, the self employed, night shift workers, part timers. Not to mention people with Autism or mental health issues or indeed someone who is ill or convalescing. We are being subjected to the whining aural delights of drills, cutters, saws, thumping booms and sweary men all in glorious surround sound. In fact, if anyone wants to record superb audio of builders noise in high definition, visit Ealing, West London's premier building site.
The council, in my opinion, should arrange for projects to be staggered, so residents are not bombarded and completely overwhelmed by the stressful business of construction. I know that there is currently a campaign in Southall and Hayes against a massive building project that is affecting thousands of people with air pollution. One word comes to mind - greed. More space, more business, more money. Unfortunately this has a habit of leading to unhappier people due to illness, stress and breathing problems which then has a strain on local health services. Mmmm. Joined up thinking left the borough a long time ago.
I'll keep you posted on next door's project, if I can bring my self to peer out of the window at the utter carnage that is the building site. Four weeks is the target finish date...that'll be a miracle.
Yours, not happy of Hanwell. Richard x
...long term partners.