On Life Not Being Fair

PJ O’Rourke is one of my favourite writers, though I am sort of Left and he is sort of Right.  Here is his famous quote to his teenage daughter, as she is complaining that something – or, indeed, everything- is not fair:

 

“Honey, you’re cute. That’s not fair. You’re smart. That’s not fair. You were born in the United States of America. That’s not fair. Darling, you had better get down on your knees and pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.”

Alleluia.

 

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Image by Jonas Satkauskas
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Spinach and the workings of the Universe

 

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Spinach: from the Tacuinum of Vienna

I think that investing in that packet of quick-grow seeds was a false economy, unless feeding my gardenful of snails is essential to my survival.  The snails are also partial to the mint and the basil ( although they don’t go near the sage) but eschew the strangleweed, nettles, dandelions and couchgrass. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

If things get really bad, I suppose I can go for sage, snail and dandelion casserole of some kind.  I have neither forgiven nor forgotten the Dark Night of the Marigolds.

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cb/Houghton_Typ_805.09.3161_-_Interesting_selections_from_animated_nature%2C_snail.jpg/320px-Houghton_Typ_805.09.3161_-_Interesting_selections_from_animated_nature%2C_snail.jpg

From: Interesting selections from animated nature: with illustrative scenery (London: 1809) by William Daniell

Pea Shoots

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The Embryo of the Pea laid open.” Figure 2 from the 11th Edition Encyclopaedia Britannica article “Stem”.

 

In a bid to stave off beri-beri or scurvy or summat, I am growing my own pea shoots, the beloved ingredient of a thousand foodie menus.  I got a handful of dried peas, soaked overnight in cold water and planted them very shallowly in leftover compost ( well, the sad and reproachful reminder of a failed attempt to fuschia cuttings…).

They sprouted the next day. A small victory over the brutal entropy of the universe….

 

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Image of peas by Betty Cai. Rights here.

Truly Excellent Instant Salad

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  • Some spinach/leaves of some kind/lettuce
  • 1 fillet smoked mackerel
  • 1 orange/clementine/satsuma etc
  • 1 cooked beetroot sliced
  • 1/2 tin chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • Herbs to your taste – dill or parsley would be nice
  • Dressing: 1 tsp horseradish, 1 tbsp yoghurt, splash of lemon juice, pepper, herbs if required – mint or tarragon perhaps

 

Arrange as you desire. Serves two.

Mix and match, add or omit ingredients or change the dressing according to your taste and store cupboard. Smoked mackerel is cheap, delicious and nutritious but you could also use tuna, sardines or…. rollmops! For greenery, rocket, dandelion leaves or watercress can serve instead of spinach or lettuce. Enjoy. Because you’re worth it.

 

 

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Spinach and Chickpea Soup

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau

 

There are a million recipes for this soup on the web. This is mine, adapted from the Casa Moro cookbook.  It is vegan, cheap and quite delicious.  You can of course add or take away – this soup is nice with added tomato. For your sanity, used tinned chickpeas ( if you know where to look they can be as inexpensive as 25p a can), frozen spinach if you need to and dried herbs if no fresh ones are available. Be sparing with the olive oil….waste is a sin and so is greasy food.

Serves 2

  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 portion frozen spinach, defrosted or 8oz fresh spinach
  • 1 slice of bread cut into cubes (brown is my preference but stale white bread is the classic ingredient)
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
  •  oregano, fresh or dried
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or any vinegar)
  • a pinch of saffron infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • a small dried red chili pepper or chilli flakes or powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt
  • black pepper

 

  1. Saute the spinach lightly in 1bsp olive oil
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Fry the bread lightly in the remaining oil, and add garlic, cumin, oregano, and chilli, and cook for 1 minute, until the garlic is nutty brown. Mash this mixture with the vinegar in a mortar and pestle
  3. Return the bread mixture to the pan along with the chickpeas and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. This is thick soup but thin with a little water if needed – it should not be chewy. Add the spinach and heat through. Blend if you like – I sort of half-blend it.
  4. Serve sprinkled with paprika and eat, glowing with virtue.

 

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Giuseppe Costantini

Tomato Jam

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There’s a tomato theme going on in my mind, I suppose….

 

  • Butter (some)
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. melt the butter in a small frying pan
  2. saute garlic
  3. add cinnamon and sugar
  4. add tomatoes and seasoning
  5. cook down very very slowly – up to 40 minutes
  6. decant into ramekins or similar
  7. chill in fridge, preferably overnight

 

Add lemon juice, cumin, herbs, chilli powder, paprika or anything else you might like. Enjoy. You’ve just saved yourself about three pounds.

 

 

La Tomatina image by flydime – La Tomatina (25.08.2010) / Spain, Buñol, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11788582

 

 

 

 

 

Superfoods

 

Every book I read seems to have contradictory nutritional advice.  So I follow my own sense of what is correct. What I have noticed, however, is that books, blogs, TV shows, and so on, always seem to concur in recommending the most expensive, and often rare, ingredients.

That’s tricky.  So I try to find the cheap superfoods, the fruit and veg in season, the better alternatives. You can eat well, eat healthily – and not break your budget.

On the foodie front, I have bought dried peas and intend to sprout my own pea shoots – even though they’re so very 2015….

 

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Franz Snyders – Fruit Stall

 

Bread

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William Hemsley – Baking Day

 

Bread-making is good for the bingo-wings and the spirit.  It is nurturing, therapeutic and sort of cheap compared to the cost ‘artisan loaves’ (FOUR QUID!).

The Grant loaf requires no kneading and you can add as many nuts, seeds, fruit, spices and so on as you wish.  Here’s the wiki recipe:

 

  • 450g strong wholemeal flour (alternatively you can use Spelt)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar such as Muscovado (1 tablespoon of honey may be used instead)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • Yeast
  • 400-450ml of hand-hot water

Begin by warming the flour in your oven for about 10 minutes on the lowest heat.

Place the warmed flour into a bowl and add the salt, sugar and yeast. Mix these together, make a small well in the centre and gradually add the water, using your hands or a wooden spoon to combine all the ingredients into a dough. (At this point the dough may seem quite wet, which is normal for a Doris Grant loaf.)

Move the dough to a floured pastry board and stretch it out into an oblong. Take one side, fold it into the centre and do the same for the other side, turn it over and repeat. Place the dough into a well greased tin, cover with a sprinkling of flour and leave to rise for 30–40 minutes in a warm place, or for about an hour at room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and bake the bread for 30–40 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped if it is fully cooked. Return the bread to the oven (out of the tin) for a further 5–10 minutes to crisp up the base and sides. Leave to cool on a wire rack.