Tag Archives: The Guardian

Try Something New Every Week

Full Of Vitamins, Rocking Dog

Full Of Vitamins

It’s tempting to stick to tried and trusted favourite recipes, but I do like to try something new every week. Usually the Cook section from the Saturday “Guardian” provides one or two new recipes for the week ahead. The benefit of selecting recipes from the latest issue is that the recipes are seasonal and use produce at its cheapest and best.

Some recipes are relished and filed, whilst others are abandoned after  their first outing.

Recently I made two “Guardian” soups. One was a Thai inspired affair which included coconut milk, lemongrass, buckwheat noodles and tofu (but prawns would be a good substitute). The other soup was given the briefest of introductions to the hob, and utilised little gem lettuces, corn on the cob and fresh herbs. I felt as if i’d had my five a day in one bowl! Both were really quick to prepare and will make it to the recipe file.

I am gradually beginning to look at recipes online, but still favour my shelves of cookery books.

Although I consider myself a competant cook I am not someone who wants to spend a day slaving over one dish. In my days of running “Heaven’s Cake” I once did a consultation for a woman who wanted me to cook for a large party. It became very apparent she had been on rather too many swish cruises and wanted everything done in aspic and served on mirrors! To recover from this rather awkward appointment I took myself off to a garden centre with the cheery thought of buying a topiaried holly. Alas, with a price tag of about ¬£200 I decided that although I felt glum … the tree was a step too expensively far. I later fired off an e.mail to say I really didn’t think I was the right person for the job and hoped that she could find an ex-cruise liner chef (I didn’t really say that last bit). Oops! I then had to endure the most terrifying and balshy phone call from her. How very dare I not want to do her aspic’d party! How very right I was to go with my gut feeling of not wanting to work with this lady.

I cooked for some wonderful events and generally worked with some lovely people. However there are just a few jobs that are memorable for being led by bridezilla’s or clients with a touch of the “Upstairs Downstairs” mentality. I do not understand why fellow human beings cannot see that politeness and kindness mean that people will go that extra mile for them.

As for that arrogant bride’s father who whistled at me to get my attention…. don’t get me started!!!!

Yes, I have gone way off the beaten track with trying something new. Sorry. I hope you have a lovely weekend and hope that you put your toe in the water and try something new.

Love Rocking Dog x

Gathering The Harvest , Rocking Dog

Gathering The Harvest

Foodie Print, Rocking Dog

Foodie Print

Pretty Page, Rocking Dog

Pretty Page

Feeding The Family With Rocking Dog

Into The Oven You Go!, Rocking Dog

Into The Oven You Go!

Rocking Dog has enjoyed having people to cook for this week. Sometimes cooking for two just isn’t much fun…. but there again so much less stressful than cooking for 120 wedding guests!! The newly weds rang to say they were popping in after a climbing wall session in Bristol. Not quite the same as a mountain climb to witness the sunrise over Bali, but heh ho! Popping in… usually means us mums (or dads) popping food into the oven, and last night was no different. Luckily the fridge was plentiful in ingredients and the garden plentiful in herbs.

I chose recipes from a recent Guardian food supplement, “Easy Ottolenghi” (yes that old chestnut!) 20 quick and simple recipes for spring. I prepared Roast leeks and soya beans with buffalo mozzarella and another dish, Roast cauliflower with chorizo and green olives. Sometimes food writers rather hoodwink readers into thinking recipes are quicker to prepare than they actually are. However, these dishes REALLY were simple to prep and cook.

Ah now, what to cook for pudding. Some cheap punnets (56p per punnet) of apricots bought in Lidl, together with some blitzed pistachio’s (a cooking remnant from the wedding) got me thinking. I lightly stewed the stoned apricots with a little sugar and water and meanwhile conjured up a crumble topping. I used flour, sugar, butter, nutty muesli and pistachio’s to crown my apricot compote. A further scattering of blitzed pistachios and a sprinkling of caster sugar and this comforting pud’ was ready for the oven. Apricots are one of those rare fruits which generally taste much more lovely cooked than when eaten fresh.

I served the two savoury dishes warm, and accompanied them with some Tomato and rosemary focaccia which I pulled from the freezer. A quick blast in the oven and the bread was ready to be enjoyed with our own handpicked Umbrian olive oil.

Guinea Pig food served, we all ended up praising my idol Yotam (Ottolenghi)- he really is a magician with ingredients and flavours.

As for the crumble, I knew I had to make custard for the boy. Milk was infused with a vanilla pod over a low heat and then left to stand. In a jug I beat two egg yolks with sugar and a little cornflour (the cornflour really does help the custard from curdling). I reheated the milk, removed the vanilla pod, and poured a little of the milk into the jug with the beaten egg. The egg/milk mix was then poured into the pan with the remaining milk. Over a moderate heat I constantly stirred the custard until it was thickened. I then triumphantly took the custard jug to the table… happy days…happy boy! The crumble got a thumbs up and was strangely comforting in the wet, cold and wind of the evening beyond the window pane.

Unflustered cookery, people fed, witty conversations had, tea drunk (Kylie), they went on their way. Waved off there was the usual conversation mimed through the car window “text us when you get home”- it’s only 20 miles or so, but they are SO very precious.

Dishwasher loaded, recipes filed, table wiped, I was left to ponder on who was going to be coming to eat at Rocking Dog’s table next!

The Hungry Climbers!, Rocking Dog

The Hungry Climbers!

The Joys Of Cauli'!, Rocking Dog

The Joys Of Cauli’!

Before A Roasting, Rocking Dog

Before A Roasting

Lovely Leeks, Rocking Dog

Lovely Leeks

Fruit For The Crumble, Rocket Dog

Fruit For The Crumble

Where's The Custard?, Rocking Dog

Where’s The Custard?

A Yummy Salad For The Weekend

Summer Yumminess! , Rocking Dog

Summer Yumminess!

Sometimes it’s very easy to get into a rut with cooking and eating. Same old, same old! Last weekend I spotted a yummy salad recipe in Saturday’s Food section of the Guardian. It fulfilled the criteria of being quick to prepare, healthy, and importantly did not have a Domesday sized list of ingredients.

Thankfully I remembered Suzanne Anderegg’s recipe for Butternut squash, feta and raspberry salad before the papers reached the recycling bin.

The gist of the recipe is roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, salad leaves, broad beans, feta and raspberries. A zesty lemon and mint dressing completes this main course salad. My mother in law at times is somewhat perplexed that I am not putting meat and two veg’ in front of her son. Very probably she gets more disgusted that he often chooses to cook. Stereotypes indeed still sadly exist!

Back to this very yummy salad. As ever I put my own slant on the dish (I hate the word twist!) Therefore, I replaced broad beans with inexpensive locally grown asparagus. I am conscious of food miles and do try to buy local seasonal food where possible. It’s often cheaper and tastes infinitely better.

This salad was easy to prepare and very delicious. I think it helped that we were still able to sit in our dusky garden to eat it at 9pm. Bliss.

This would be a great salad to serve up with barbecued meats. Here I feel another stereotype coming on…. men standing around BBQ with beers in hand, women indoors getting to grips with salads, bread, pudding, plates, napkins, kids and burn plasters etc…etc…! Ring any bells?! I have to say Andyman really despises BBQ’s, he so wants to dispel the myth that it’s the only cooking that the male species is capable of!

Salad eaten, I was careful to quickly cut out the now tried and tested recipe and to file it in my trusty recipe folder. Good job!

Whatever the weekend brings I hope it’s a good one for you all, and that the sun carries on shining. Love Rocking Dog x

'Tis The Season To Be Jolly!, Rocking Dog

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly!

The Recipe, Rocking Dog

The Recipe

Finished Result, Rocking Dog

Finished Result

Rocking Dog Recreates Cuban Moors And Christians

Rocking Dog's Moors & Christians With Lamb Kofte's, Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog’s Moors & Christians With Lamb Kofte’s

Rocking Dog was keen to recreate Cuban Moors and Christians- how lovely it is to get cooking again! I must admit I felt incredibly guilty about the choice, quality and quantity of food on offer to me at the supermarket following our Cuban trip. A Communist country, the Cuban people are still in receipt of rationed food. The system was initially introduced by Minister of Economy, Che Guevara in 1962. Rather like Great Britain in WW2 the main householder has a ration book listing additional family members and their ages together with any dietary/special requirements (i.e… vegetarian or particular health problem). One shop (a Bodega) is allocated for a householder to pick up their rationed goods with each ration book (Libreta) lasting one year. With the average Cuban earning around $20 dollars a month the ration book allows the right to purchase basic foodstuffs for nominal prices. Prior to the Soviet Union stopping financial aid to Cuba in the 1990’s there were many more items which could be bought using the Libreta. Giving you a rough idea of the items currently on the list.. (one persons allocation per month) 5 Eggs, 1/2 lb chicken, 5lb rice, 10oz red beans, 1lb white sugar, 1lb brown sugar, I bread roll (daily), cup of cooking oil. Children until the age of seven together with the elderly are allocated 1 litre of milk a day.

These allocated rationed goods last the average individual about 10 days. To cope with the shortfall the householder needs then to buy food at significantly higher prices than the prescriptive rationed goods. There is a rife black market, especially for milk which is notoriously difficult to purchase.

Staying predominantly in Casas Particulares (a room in a private family home) the families looked after us very well. To buy food to give us for breakfast and on occasions an evening meal, hosts used their family rations together with food bought using income from hosting travellers. I presume tips would also be helpful in keeping things ticking over. Fruit, bread and omelettes commonly featured for breakfast. Evening meals eaten both in the Casa P’s and restaurants almost inevitably included rice (imported generally from China and Vietnam). The rice often included beans, Moors and Christians.

The Moors refers to the black beans whilst the Christians applies to the rice. For seven centuries the Moors and Christians fought each other in Spain and this staple of Cuban cuisine brings the harmony of these two simple ingredients together. There are various versions, some recipes where the beans and rice are bought together towards the end of the cooking and others where the beans and rice are cooked together resulting in a darker looking dish. I served my Moors and Christians with some easily prepared Yotam Ottelenghi lamb Koftes with a tahini sauce. Delicious!

Two Cuban meals really stand out for Andyman and I. On our second last day we went in search of Cafe de los Artistas which was recommended by The Guardian. It was tucked away in a shaded leafy little street in Havana and we ate a delicious bowl of tender octopus together with some roasted vegetables. The other memorable meal was one at San Cristobal, a Paladar (a private home run restaurant) in a rather rundown neighbourhood of Havana. We had been told that the Obama’s had been there a few days earlier for lunch. The surroundings were amazing with Art Nouveau wall tiles, antique clocks, eccentric pictures and posters, chandeliers, wooden toucans etc.. even the bathrooms were worthy of being photographed! We shared battered lobster with aioli, and then went on to have steak with pepper sauce and country style potateoes. Lola’s Cup followed, vanilla ice cream with creme caramel. I wonder who Lola was! The staff were truly lovely and it was a magical way to end our trip to Cuba.

The Bodega, Rocking Dog

The Bodega

Bodega Price List, Rocking Dog

Bodega Price List

Crocodillo's, Rocking Dog


Cuban Snack, Rocking Dog

Cuban Snack

Stairway To Eat, Rocking Dog

Stairway To Eat

Delicious Dish, Rocking Dog

Delicious Dish

Obama's Haunt, Rocking Dog

Obama’s Haunt

San C' Dining, Rocking Dog

San C’ Dining

Lobster To Share, Rocking Dog

Lobster To Share

Top Ten New Year Resolutions

Anyone For A Dip In The Neighbours Pool?, Rocking Dog

Anyone For A Dip In The Neighbours Pool?

I didn’t make any resolutions -I know just how futile it is! In the Family section (love it) of Saturday’s Guardian they printed The Top 10 modern New Year resolutions (OVO Energy Survey 2014). Surprisingly, slimming down to a size 10 was not one of them, nor getting fit by swimming in the neighbours pool.

The Top 10 are as follows:-
1. Declutter the house. Mmmmm- I can but try on that one
2. Save More Money. Andyman bought me a well equipped tool bag for Christmas, maybe I can fit the new toilet and basin, and while i’m about it tile the floor.
3. Try new places instead of relying on the same old bars/restaurants. Guilty as charged my lord!
4. Read more books. Very thick Nordic Cook Book awaits me, and then as a result of reading the tome no doubt a house move to Sweden.
5. Redecorate house/room. Our house is like the Forth Rail Bridge but crumblier. We keep Farrow & Ball shareholders happy.
6. Take Up new hobby. I want to write a R4 play based on my mother in law. Yes really.
7. Sell old stuff I don’t need. Strange but true, we have a bed we need to sell under the new bed we have recently bought.
8. Visit five new places I have never been. UK Hit list- Derek Jarman’s garden Dungeness, St Ives, Rye, Alnwick, Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House.
9. Vow to be positive. OK that is until I witness rudeness,fly-tipping/littering, Donald Trump, my daughter being repeatedly gazumped by buy to let investors , Z lister celebrities & so called reality shows, together with sexism, racism or homophobia (back to Donald Trump again!). Grrrrr!
10. Stop complaining as much. Who me?!

I hope if you have made resolutions that you’ll be successful in achieving whatever goal you have set yourself. Now… I better go and find that tool bag…!

Yep! Love The Pig, Rocking Dog

Yep! Love The Pig

Decluttered... Honest!, Rocking Dog

Decluttered… Honest!

Bedtime Scandi' Tome, Rocking Dog

Bedtime Scandi’ Tome

Sell Old Stuff, Rocking Dog

Sell Old Stuff

Redecorate, Rocking Dog


Glass Half Full, Rocking Dog

Glass Half Full