Horseradish and beef



Given the glut of horseradish in the garden it is only right that I should eat some. We had it last night.

Halfway through the afternoon I braved the wind and rain for five minutes and grabbed a fork from the garage and dug at the roots through the sodden soil walking away with half a dozen straggly tubers. I could smell them as I walked back into the house.

Of course the only thing worth eating with horseradish is beef. I came prepared and picked up a small joint of topside from Claremont Farm along with a sack of potatoes. I also picked up six fat razor clams and a kilo of mussels. I was planning on a feast.

I started with the horseradish, washing off the wet soil and then peeling them. It was only as I started to grate them that it’s pungency got me, a sharp hit in the back of the nose and then the eyes started to water. I ended up grating them my eyes closed to try hold back the tears. Once it was all grated I stirred in some creme fraiche and put it in the fridge to keep.

I then started on a sauce for the mussels and clams, sweating down an onion with fennel, garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Once that had cooked down I added a couple of handfuls of chopped cherry tomatoes and a good glug of white wine.

Then the potatoes. They were peeled and sliced and layered in a buttered dish with a litre of cream, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.

The potatoes went into the oven first to cook through. The beef was prepared by being rubbed in olive oil and given a good coating of salt and pepper. After half an hour the beef went into the oven with the potatoes.

When we were ready to eat the beef came out of the oven to rest. It had been in there for about an hour.

The sauce for the shellfish was warmed through and the razor clams were laid on top their white bodies lolling in the heat. After a couple of minutes I added the mussels and put a lid on the pan until the mussels had open and were cooked through.

In their dish the mussels and razor clams were seasoned with some feta cheese, chopped parsley and more salt and pepper.

Once they had been finished were ready for the beef. The horseradish worked well and had the appropriate heft about it.


The sound of clanging guitars

Is there any better sound on a Friday evening than a guitar that has been turned up too loud before being shredded through a knackered speaker before being turned up a little louder. If that same guitar is being given over to replicating some dodgy T-Rex riffs then happiness is mine. It doesn’t take much.

As the guitar made too much noise I cooked up a few lamb steaks. I had thought I would be cooking for at least one teenager but it turned they all thought they had better things to do. In the event all the teenage plans turned to nothing and they are now in lock down in their bedrooms complaining of being bored.

In the meantime once the lamb steaks were done I turned then in garlic, chopped red onion and cherry tomatoes. A handful of cooked giant couscous was stirred in together with some rocket before I sat to eat with guitars clanging in the distance.

A reluctant gardener

I am a reluctant gardener. I am happier sitting back and admiring someone else’s handiwork  opposed to getting my hands dirty and trying to create order out of the chaos.

I can do the mindless destruction. Cutting things down in the hope they will grow back again next year. And I can dig a small hole in the ground, ease out a plant from a plastic black pot, put the plant in the hole in the expectation that nature will do the rest. After that I get a bit lost. Things don’t grow and the tasks are half carried out. I only need think about the six tomatoes I grew from the six plants I had in the greenhouse.

So this afternoon I set myself the task of trimming the hedge that runs down our half of the left hand, or right hand, side, depending on where you are standing, of the front garden. I started off knowing that no matter how much was trimmed the hedge was already so misshapen it would still look like a mess, albeit shorter, by the time I was done.

And so it proved. A tall ladder was extracted from the basement, a hedge trimmer was dug out of the garage and an hour and a half later I was left with a great pile of cuttings that needed to be cleared away and a hedge that look just as much of of a mess as it had when I started, only a little bit shorter.

The robin seemed happy. It pecked around in the ground after me until it found a fat green grub and it was off for its lunch.

For our late lunch I am making more use of the harissa. I spent half an hour yesterday trying to find a recipe for a harissa flavoured beef stew and then I gave up figuring I could work it all out with what I had.

We had finished off the chicken I had cooked on Friday for Saturday’s lunch but the carcass was left in the fridge. I cooked it down to make a bright red and fierce stock.

As that cooked I fried off some pieces of fatty pork belly in the pan I had used this morning for frying bacon ( I have a death wish – I know), once they were browned, I did the same to some stewing steak.

I then sweated onions and garlic in a large pan until they were sweet. Cumin and caraway seeds were ground and stirred into the onions. The meat was tipped in and I cleared off the fatty residue in the bottom of the frying pan with some of the chicken stock. I stirred a good teaspoon of the harissa into the meat along with a tin of chopped tomatoes, the rest of the stock and then put the lid on and left it to putter for a couple of hours.

We ate it with potatoes from the garden, couscous and kale. Kale seems to be the only thing I can grow  (apart from garlic and horseradish) and we have a surfeit of it.






Bad oysters and fish-cakes

I should have known. If you start on a recipe that is short on detail but includes the words ‘do not not put in the fridge otherwise they may collapse’ then you should know that how ever damn long it stays in the fridge it is bound to collapse. So it proved.

I picked up The Ivy Cookbook a couple of weeks ago for £2.50. It has been on the side ever since. Then this morning I thought I would make fish-cakes and it occurred to me that The Ivy would have a good recipe. I was right. It is so good that people complain if it is not on the menu.

I made a note of what would be required, including a bag of salmon tails from Wards  from which it transpires I buy my fish from the same place as the the bloke responsible for 7 Seconds to Midnight. From such things are comfortable nights sleep to be had.

In between choosing what to cook and the cook inning I had to spend two hours in a B & Q car-park waiting for the the AA to come along to help kick start a recalretent car. He spent a lot of time plugging in screws and undoing electrics without a great deal happening. As he was about to give up he said he was off to thump the petrol tank. To the surprise of us both this worked.

Back with the fish cakes – they started to sag as soon as they went into a pan to brown. This was despite the time they had been given to firm up in the fridge. Bad temper and general grudge followed them round for the rest of the evening. Despite  all that they tasted very good. But not as good as they would have tasted if they had kept their shaped and had been flavoured with Heinz, as opposed to someone else’s, tomato ketchup.

I should of course blame it all on The Ivy. I have a memory of eating there almost 30 years ago and as a starter I had a plate of oysters. They were very good oysters apart from one which had a smell about it as if it had been dragged up from a shit pit and wasn’t going back. The smell took my nose as I was swallowing it down. I spent the rest of the day, and the next day, waiting for the bad oyster to work its course through my insides.

Nothing happened. But I have kept a eat  wheathered eye on the The Ivy every since.