Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Cookery Calendar Challenge: October

Hello friends. Everyone ok? I am currently in the throes of a really nasty, heavy head cold, my third this autumn. I had full blown laryngitis the week before half term, did I tell you? On one day, I had absolutely no voice at all. None! It was actually funny, I was squeaking. I always thought I had fairly good immunity, but no, two months of working with those seven year olds every day and I am suffering. I feel like my head is in a vice, there's so much pressure in my sinuses, and am currently buried in a nest on the sofa with tissues and hot drinks within easy reach. I am, belatedly, taking the vitamins I found in the back of the cupboard and will be buying echinacea and manuka honey too. I'll try anything. Other than that we're good, enjoying autumn and bonfire night and all the rest of it, and I'll share more of what we've been up to soon. We're really getting there with the work on the hallway too, it's coming together!

But today it's time for my tenth Cookery Calendar Challenge post, and for October I chose The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. Most of you probably have this book, and if you don't, I recommend buying or borrowing a copy as it's just a gem of a book. A classic, even. He really is one of the best food writers, so beautifully able to catch the feeling of a day or season in a couple of sentences, as well as in a perfect recipe. The Kitchen Diaries is s book I get down from the shelf and flick through a lot, always going to the corresponding month, when I feel in need of a bit of inspiration, but I don't actually cook from it a lot, and I've no idea why. Just browsing online, I realised that he has many other books following on from this first, and last year The Christmas Chronicles was published. I fear it may find it's way into my shopping basket sometime soon, it looks like the perfect thing to read in the lead up to Christmas. Hygge, but the British way.

Anyway, the cooking. I felt it was in the spirit of this monthly challenge to try some new recipes from the October chapter so, upon discovering some frozen haddock fillets in the freezer, John and I tried Haddock with Crumbs and Tarragon one night when the children had already eaten. It's so simple, just fish dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, then pan fried. But the addition of tarragon and anchovies to the breadcrumbs is what really makes this dish special. I couldn't get fresh tarragon and I think the dried stuff in the cupboard that I used may have been a little...vintage....so the anise flavour of that herb didn't really come through much, but the mild salty-fishiness of the anchovies elevated some bland supermarket fish to something better. Plus the breadcrumbs were really crispy and lovely. The recipe seemed to imply you served it alone (whaat??) but I didn't want to be hungry an hour later so we had it with roasted potatoes and butternut squash and some green beans which I overcooked.

I'm afraid that, as the clocks have now gone back, it's orange electric light photos all the way. Sorry.

Our second meal was Ham and Butter Beans. This is the most perfect kind of autumnal comfort food, and the kind of thing I usually cook for a Sunday evening dinner. It's a brilliant recipe; easy, thrifty, delicious, plus lots leftover. 

It is very easy. You fry some onions, thyme and garlic, add carrots and chorizo sausage, then the butter beans. Nigel suggests using dried beans which are soaked then boiled, but this is beyond my capabilities at the moment, so I bought two tins of cooked beans from Asda. You put the beans and the liquid from the cans into the pot along with two tins of chopped tomatoes and a little stock too, add the ham/gammon joint, bring to the boil then put in the oven for an hour and half.

I removed the lid for the last half hour as it seemed that there was too much liquid, and it didn't dry out at all. You remove the ham to carve then return the meat to the pot to serve, which I did with baked potatoes and greens. 

John and I loved it, the kids found it a little salty and weren't sure about the butter beans (me: "they're just big baked beans!!") but ate it all and seemed neutral about it. I'll take that as a win. Definitely something I'll make again, and I'm just wondering now if I can reduce the liquid and do this in the slow cooker? I'm sure I can.

Finally, we tried the My Very Good Chocolate Brownie Recipe. Now, that's some title, but they did completely live up to it and are some of the nicest, fudgiest brownies I've had in a while. We ate them first warmed for pudding with vanilla ice cream then the rest went in about twenty four hours. Taking one to work on Monday in my lunchbox was a treat. But yes, they are very good, with the right amount of crusty outer layer to gooey inner, and not overly sweet but sweet enough, and without the dry, cocoa bitterness that some brownies can have. I will be making this again, too.

All of this, the stews and cake, is the kind of food I want to eat when the clocks have changed and it's cold and wet outside and I just want to hibernate. Carb loading has commenced. 


  1. I'm with you on the fish, there's no way I would have served it on its own! It looks delicious, in fact everything looks delicious and is making me very hungry right now. xx Susan

  2. Oh head colds are dreadful things, I hope you are feeling better soon. Little children are such incubators of all things yuck!

    Your dishes look beautiful.


  3. Fish... with just fish, and nothing to go with it? That is odd, and like you, I would have added at least spuds and then probably a big bowl of salad.
    I have not yet had breakfast, so the description of the brownies makes me want one right now!
    Sorry to hear you are/have been suffering with colds and such. Hopefully, that will be it for you for the rest of the cold season.
    Speaking of cold and wet - we are really, really in need of some rain, so if you have a few clouds to spare, please send them my way!

  4. Well this is a wonderful cozy post. I’m not usually much of a one for cook books as I don’t take a lot of joy in cooking but these dishes look like something even I could handle! I hope the pesky cold is getting better. You are so right, there is so much of it around this year, between the three of us there’s been at least one I’ll person in the house since school started back!

    S x

  5. This book was once a favourite but has sat on the shelf unopened for a while - I have already got it out again! Thank you for reminding me how good it is. xx

  6. That looks absolutely delicious! I don't eat meat, but I do eat a lot of fish. I hope your cold clears up soon. Take care. Best, Jane :)

  7. This is also a brilliant recipe from Nigel Slater, easy to prepare and very tasty. Have used plain pork sausages and Cumberlands too; so many different sausages but the recipe is basically our new favourite for a quick and easy meal, which is also warming. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jul/24/nigel-slater-sausages-with-padron-peppers-recipe Hope you will try it and enjoy. We have also substituted small sweet red peppers for the padron ones and it still tastes as good.

  8. I used to work with children and was constantly getting colds. Echinacea really helped me, but don't take it all the time - take it for a week, then have a break, then a week. It certainly helped my immune system. If there were lots of colds about, I'd take it as a preventative too. I still got the occasional cold, but nowhere near so often and they weren't as severe as before. I don't work with children now, but I still use it occasionally if there are lots of bugs about and I need a boost. I also take it if I have been scratched by rose thorns while gardening.
    We love Nigel Slater's leek risotto too - simple but tasty and very filling when accompanied by lots of veg.
    Best wishes

  9. that looks rather delicious! I can feel my mouth watering looking at your photographs. I was in Oxfam book shop this week and they had a whole selection on nigel slater. Its that time of year when the colds/flu germs start doing the rounds. My daughter has a slight cold...luckily (touching wood) I havent had anything nasty take hold of me yet...Anyway hope you start feeling brighter, best wishes...Im in need of a brownie now they look so yummy!!!!...x

  10. I love Nigel Slater's writing - Christmas Chronicles is great, it really should find its way into your shopping basket :) The ham and butter beans looks lovely. Hope you shake that cold off soon. Jane x

  11. Try Reflexology to clear your sinus problems. If you can't get to a therapist, google the reflexology points on hands and feet for sinus's. It really does make a difference

  12. Lovely recipes, thank you. We have just bought a Crockpot and it is wonderful....sometimes a little too much liquid so I either reduce it or lob in some gravy granules (quick fix I know but it works)! These autumn colds are a pain, same here in S. France, don't believe all you read about the Mediterranean climate.

    Linda in Beziers.

  13. Perfect autumnal food... must stop reading these in the early hours at the pool though - making me hungry. Do hope feeling better

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  15. Definitely the food of the moment! I have that casserole pan - it is wonderful for so many things: hob to oven to table - perfect. Jo x

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