Daily Prompt: Juicy

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The first (and only!) thing that came straight to mind when I saw today’s Daily Prompt: Juicy was big fat juicy steaks. The thing is, in general I’m not a great beef eater – I far prefer lamb, pork, or chicken – but steak is kind of considered to be the king of meat, so I always go with the flow when visiting others who like to serve up a decent cut of steak for dinner.

And a visit to my brother-in-law in Louisiana simply wouldn’t be complete without the big outdoor barbecue grill being put to good use. And before you ask, yes, the steak tasted absolutely wonderful! 🙂

Dodgy Syrup…

This morning I decided to make flapjacks, so a quick recce through my kitchen cupboards showed I had plenty of oats, margarine, and sugar – so far, so good. But the strangely solidified contents of my jar of golden syrup, already two-thirds empty, were looking decidedly dodgy – all crystallised and crunchy rather than smooth and silky. Hmmm…

Luckily, a quick blast in the microwave fixed the dodgy syrup, rendering it runny once more, and the flapjacks are now baking happily in the oven. But the short diversion made me think about a ‘dodgy syrup’ of another kind – those dubious half-hairpieces worn by men of a certain age (in order to cover a bald spot) known as a toupee…

The old Cockney rhyming slang of ‘syrup of figs’ for ‘wig’ is now common parlance here in the UK, but as people tend not to take syrup of figs any more to ‘keep them regular’, and modern men tend to wear their male-patterned bladness with pride so that toupees are pretty much defunct these days, I can’t help wondering if sooner or later the original etymology may soon become lost in the mists of time, while the slang word continues in use, apparently with no rhyme nor reason.

For example, ‘you stupid berk’ was a mild-mannered pejorative term I grew up hearing people called by respectable adults when the person doing the name-calling did not want to use bad language in public. And yet in the same way as ‘syrup’ is used as a common contraction for ‘syrup of figs’,  berk’ is actually a contraction for ‘Berkshire Hunt’, making it rhyming slang for my least favourite swear word beginning with ‘c’ – but perhaps I’ll leave you to work that one out for yourselves!

Or ‘cor blimey’ comes to mind as another of those supposed mild, harmless pseudo-expletives used in the past to indicate surprise – but this now meaningless-sounding phrase originally started out as ‘God blind me’, which was considered blaspehemous by some, so perhaps not so mild after all? Anyway, in the meantime, all this tangental thought has passed the time quite nicely, and my flapjacks are now cooling, almost ready to eat – time for elevenses, methinks! 🙂

Chinatown – Chinese New Year

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The Chinese New Year of the Rooster has just begun – the formal celebrations took place over the weekend, but a meandering walk through London’s Chinatown this dull Monday afternooon showed all the red decorative lanterns still hanging in place above the streets… and the mouth-watering aromas emanating (as ever) from the open doors of the many restaurants in the area were so tempting… 🙂

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Daily Prompt: Overworked

Overworked shortcrust pastry tends to be tough as old boots – whereas bread dough definitely needs to be kneaded well, with all the muscle you can muster, the trick with pastry is to apply only the barest whisper of fingertip caress when rubbing in, followed by the tenderest of touch to combine it all together into a soft ball before chilling and rolling out to the desired shape and size. Be gentle and respectful in your approach, and you will be rewarded with the most delicious melt-in-the-mouth pastry – yum! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Overworked

Daily Prompt: Capable

I’m quite a capable woman in many things, but one thing I’ve never mastered in all of my 53 years is the art of using chopsticks. I’m quite happy to be taught by anyone who wishes to teach me, and so many patient people in the past have showed me how to hold them, how to maneouvre them to pick up food, then move the food from plate to mouth.

But alas, my fingers do not obey. In desperation, my youngest daughter bought me a pair of chopsticks joined together at the top with a spring, like a giant clothes-peg. But still, I cannot use them, still my food refuses to be eaten and falls to earth before ever meeting my mouth.

As a result, I’ll quite happily ask for cutlery when frequenting any oriental-style restaurant – sometimes my fellow diners may accuse me of being a spoil-sport, although those who know me well appreciate how hard I’ve tried over time to master the use of chopsticks, without success, and tend to find my fumbling foodie foible highly amusing!  🙂

Daily Prompt: Capable

 

Discover Challenge: Superpower

My personal superpower may not be very exciting, but it’s proved to be pretty useful over the years. I’m well known within my family for being a wizard at being able to create a meal out of nothing. It’s never really ‘nothing’, of course, I just seem to have a flair for finding enough store-cupboard/ refrigerator/ freezer ingredients hiding out of sight (and therefore out of mind for many) to make something edible out of whatever bits and pieces are already there, lurking around, waiting to be found.

My own kitchen larder is always stocked with all the basics I might need, so it’s hardly surprising I can usually conjure up some creative concoction or other at home – but I can often do it in other people’s kitchens, too. The thing is, I simply love cooking, so because I know enough about how even the most simplest of things are made at source, and have a basic understanding of which ingredients tend to go together best in which particular ratios, I’m not afraid to experiment and have fun.

So it’s not really a superpower as such, it’s more of an intuitive knack for trusting in a lifetime of trial and error, of having played about with food combinations enough over the years to feel confident in putting myself out there, knowing that you win some and you lose some, but ultimately it’s all part of the never-ending learning curve of life…

Today, for example, I decided out of the blue to make an apple crumble for dessert, and maybe some custard to go with it. But I know my husband really loves chocolate, so I thought I’d maybe add some cocoa powder to the custard powder and make chocolate custard rather than vanilla. And then I thought – hmmm… maybe I could add cocoa powder and a few chocolate chips to the crumble mixture too, and make a chocolate fruit crumble. But apple and chocolate doesn’t sound good, so maybe I’ll use pear instead, we have some pears sitting in the fruit bowl…

Et voila – chocolate and pear crumble with chocolate custard all done and dusted as if by magic, yet all made with basic ingredients I had in the kitchen already – and by the way it was yum, I’ll definitely be making that again!  🙂

Discover Challenge: Superpower

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Cook

Stream of consciousness writing really isn’t my forte, but cooking… hmmm… maybe for the topic of cooking even I could manage to string something together that makes some sort of sense.

It’s Christmas Eve, and today I’m preparing meatloaf and honey-glazed ham for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner. The thing is, neither of us like turkey, so over the years we’ve variously had roast chicken, roast lamb, or roast pork, and occasionally something completely different – one year in honour of my husband’s Cajun heritage I made red beans and rice and shrimp etoufee with sweet potato and smothered corn; yum!

I’ve loved cooking since childhood; I love the alchemy of putting together raw ingredients and creating magic on a plate. OK, so maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, but I’ve written it now and according to the rules, there’s no editing allowed, only correction of typos… oh well!

Anyway, my meatloaf is a combination of minced beef, sausage-meat, smoked bacon, onion, garlic, red pepper, breadcrumbs, seasoning to taste and egg to bind it all. I always prefer to use my hands to mix it up, squishing the mixture through my fingers and blending the flavours together – I’m not one for gadgets taking me out of the process, one step removed – I like to feel the food I make, adding a dash of love along the way.

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The smoked ham I’m going to boil first, not only to take out any excess salt from the cured meat but also to make some lovely concentrated stock for the freezer. Then half the layer of fat is sliced away, the remainder of the fat scored, and clear honey is drizzled over the top before the ham is then baked until golden. Boiling it first keeps the meat moist and succulent.

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Tomorrow we’ll be having our glazed ham and meatloaf with roasted root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots), rich mushroom gravy, and steamed cabbage with bacon and onion. It may be an odd choice for Christmas dinner, but we’re really looking forward to it… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Cook