I’m not quite sure when (or how) it happened, but somewhere along the line I fell out of love with chocolate in things. Before you gasp in horror, be reassured: I am still known to smuggle a packet of Maltesers onto the train home, I wouldn’t dream of making banana cake without broken up bits of chocolate in, and I may have – may have – eaten half a packet of chocolate fingers on the way back from Sainsburys this evening (what? It’s a long walk!). It’s just that the allure of chocolate as the main ingredient in a dessert has begun to pall. I can’t remember the last time I opted for chocolate ice-cream, for example, or in fact chose anything chocolate at all from a dessert menu. Mind you, I did make my most recent pudding choice purely on the basis that it came with candied thyme, from which you can draw your own conclusions on my judgement. Be gentle, please.
Perhaps this lack of enthusiasm has partly to do with the fact that most of my colleagues openly confess their disdain for any kind of sweet thing without chocolate in, and so most of the baked goods that grace the round table in our corner of the office tend to be just a little on the chocolate-rich side. An example: my friend made a Snickers cake, not so long ago. I think it had eight full-sized Snickers bars in. Even she couldn’t eat more than half a slice at one sitting, especially not after the calorific content of the cake was worked out (I think it was around a million. More or less).
It’s around this time of year that I can get a little fed up of side dishes involving brassicas and root vegetables. It has to be said, though, that if you were to take this blog as evidence, you would probably conclude that I eat neither kale nor potatoes as often as I eat pies or cake. Strictly speaking, this is not 100% true – it’s just that I’m not sure how interested you’d be in recipes for steamed broccoli, or colcannon, or even kale sauteed with chilli, garlic and ginger. I have been imagining that if you were that keen, you could probably work those out for yourself (especially the first one), and so my writing efforts are far better used in telling you about 101 things to do with pastry, no?
If you are feeling equally frustrated by the limited options available at the greengrocers, this bright, lightly vinegared dish is a perfect way of cutting through the seasonal monotony. This is admittedly probably partly due to the fact that peppers have no season here in rainy England, so are shipped to us all year from halfway around the world, unlike the more prosaic winter vegetables – I can’t remember ever seeing kale in a supermarket in July, for example, but perhaps that’s because I never want kale in July. I’m always far too busy stuffing my fat little berry-stained face with dressed crab, tomato salads and crunchy green beans.
One of my favourite things about week-ends is the opportunity for a breakfast more leisurely and interesting than my usual – a piece of toast eaten while balancing on one leg, trying to put my shoe on and simultaneously work out where on earth I left the car keys. My most favourite breakfast ever started at around 10am, after a leisurely stroll around the shops to find a jam just the right amount of set, and didn’t finish until early afternoon – and then only because some friends turned up, and it would have been unseemly to continue to sit in the shade of the huge trees in the garden, squeezing oranges for juice and snacking on strawberries and butterzopf when there were people to entertain.
This might be a potato-heavy week, everyone. Firstly, I have to tell you about my favourite thing to do with potatoes, and then tomorrow I’m having my second favourite potato thing (at which point it will promptly become my first favourite – I can be very fickle), which I also feel strongly that you should know about. I would apologise, but I happen to really like potatoes, and I refuse to believe that the whole world doesn’t share my views. (This also applies to many other things, not just potatoes, but that’s by the by.) After all, what reasonable person could walk past a plate of potato skins roasted to a crisp and loaded with cheese and bacon and not take just a tiny one? The same sort of a person that passes the gratin dauphinoise dish around the table without taking a spoonful, that’s who: frankly, very suspicious.
I do intend to make
myself you a cake in between, though, partly so that you don’t desert me in favour of less starch-laden climes, and also partly because I have been thinking about very little else for over a week now, which says very little in favour of my time management skills. In my defence, I did spend most of Saturday miles up a hill in the mist chopping down hawthorn, and then the rest of the time since then pulling inch-long thorns out of places that should perhaps have been better protected from them. That is my excuse.
I realise that I may have let you down, there – after the passion fruit crepes were so expertly timed to coincide perfectly with Shrove Tuesday, you may have been expecting something slightly more romantic, come Valentine’s Day, than …flatbreads. You would have been forgiven for demanding oysters, perhaps, or quail in rose petal sauce, or at least something – anything! – with chocolate in. Unfortunately for you, I dislike oysters only marginally less than I dislike having a romantic occasion forced upon me, especially in the middle of a month when it is far too cold to take even some of your clothes off. Nor do I care much for pink, fluff, or restaurants full of whispering couples presenting one another with fluffy pink things. I did tell John that he could buy me a bottle of pink champagne for Valentine’s day if he wanted, as long as he provided me with a replacement boyfriend at the same time. Surprisingly enough, he declined.
In the spirit of the thing, though, just in case you have recently found the love of your life, I imagine you’ll be wanting to fatten them up so that a) none of their clothes fit, so that they have to stay inside, with you, and b) they can’t run very far anyway even if they did make a break for it. This was my tactic. If you are after ideas, this pie should do the trick.
My housekeeping skills are inconsistent at best. I’m not really very sure where the hoover now lives, since we re-jigged the utility room a month ago. I don’t entirely believe in dusting. Guests have used the iron more often than I have, and even they have only used it twice (in fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I know where the iron is now, either). Luckily, I have a high tolerance for fluff, and a boyfriend who has forgotten what flat shirts are for – and who has kept slightly more of an eye on the hoover’s whereabouts.
This is possibly painting a worse picture than I deserve: everything is clean that should be (apart from the windows), and all of the tea towels are beautifully flat and neatly folded (very important), but really, the main area in which I like to think I contribute something to the household is the food. It’s very strenuous, you know – leafing through recipe books, drawing up meal plans, arranging for the veg box to turn up and hunting down delicious things to do with its
radicchio chard (it turns out you can’t do anything nice with radicchio). All of this incredibly hard work means that I do – usually – manage to cook something healthy and tasty for the two of us that isn’t cheese on toast. What? That seems a perfectly fair division of labour to me. I do also make sure the books stay colour co-ordinated, if that helps.
In a continuation of the worrying trend, though, where I fail to remember anything at all and instead waltz through life leaving behind me a wake of very important things, my excellent planning skills (ahem) have failed me recently. I very smugly got some of Nigel’s root vegetable korma out of the freezer before work, and failed miserably to realise that – somehow – we had run out of rice. I certainly don’t remember eating it.
It probably won’t have escaped your notice that it’s Shrove Tuesday tomorrow. Any excuse for a pancake, I say, and so I have
used this blog as an excuse to eat pancakes twice in one week brought you a recipe for something truly delicious to make for dessert. Surely I don’t need to sell this to you, to attempt to persuade you of its loveliness? Look – it’s pancakes! and passion fruit!
I was sold, three words into the recipe’s title.