Bad habits

One of my many bad habits is to make sure, once the bill has been paid in a restaurant, that the bill ends up in my pocket. From there it will find its way into my wallet and eventually end up in a tin that has stood on the window ledge in our bedroom for the last ten years.

I started on the habit without realising what I was doing and then one day I found myself with twenty or creased bills in my pocket. It seemed a shame to throw them away so I kept them. One of the first of these bills was from a restaurant called Las Huertas which we found down a side street in Santiago de Compestella. I have it front of me now and see that I ate octopus followed by Bacalao Huertas which I guess must have been the house salt cod. I am sure it was very good.

The tin has been filling up so this evening I took out the bills to put them in some order and stick them down in a book.

So far I have got to 2011. What is most marked is how they have lost character over the years. It is rare now to get a bill written out in such neat hand-writing as the one we got from Las Huertas. Now they all printed out and time and date stamped.

Captain’s beef stew with beer and potatoes

Yesterday I spent the best part of two and a half hours in a large dark room with a hundred or so other people in the company of The Revenant. I am still undecided. There was lots that was beautiful to look at and plenty of gratuitous violence but does all that make a good film. After a while I found myself wishing they would just get on with it and do away with all the snow filled vistas and ponderous music.

This morning I had some sympathy for the writer who suggested that all it boiled down to was two and half hours waiting for someone to be killed with an axe.

Putting all  that to one side the cold and grey outside put me in mind of something warming to eat.

I was given for Christmas a book of Nordic cooking. Amongst the recipes for smoked puffin and seal guts I found a recipe for a Captain’s beef stew with potatoes and beer.

We will be eating it this evening. A mixture of beef, onion and potato browned in butter and pig fat and cooked for a few hours on low heat. It should be good.

Using up cavolo nero after the pigeons

It has been a grey flat day and as the clouds started to bunch up  from the west towards late morning there was a hint of snow in the air. But when it came it came as hard cold rain.

There were only three of us for lunch and I decided to try and use up some of the cavolo nero that has been growing down the bottom of the garden. When I got down it transpired that the pigeons had eaten most of what there was. I had seen the pigeons there a week or so go but had not taken on board how much damage they were carrying out.

Betwen them the pigeons and squirrels seem to be determined to ruin all my good intentions in the garden. One of the butchers at The Farmer’s Market last week had some skinned grey squirrels for sale along side his rabbits hares. Maybe I should invest in a suitably powerful catapult I could keep the family fed that way. They would taste mighty fine fed fat on my tulip bulbs and black cabbage.

In the meantime there was just enough of the cavolo nero for me to make rough sauce for pasta.

The cavolo nero was blanched in boiling water for a few minutes with a couple of cloves of garlic. It was all fished out of the water and ran through with cold water and I then tipped the pasta into the pan of still boiling water.

As the pasta cooked the cavolo nero was drained thoroughly and then puréed in the fine hand mixer that was gifted to me for Christmas with a generous slug of olive oil.  A couple of squashed cloves of garlic were stirred in with more olive oil and a seasoning of salt and pepper.

the thick green sludge was then stirred into the drained and cooked pasta. We now now all smell of garlic for the rest of the weekend.



Sat here now listening to the first side of Station to Station for about the 20th time this week. Getting up every twenty minutes or so to lift up the needle and put it down again at the start of the locked black grooves. There is no doubt it sounds better on vinyl. So I am just looking forward to playing it loud.

In another world I made some kedgeree this evening. I had the recipe for it open in front of me although I am not quite sure why as nothing was measured out and the only reference made was to  get confirmation of the number of eggs for hard boiling.

It was good comforting food as the hail came down outside and the wind snuck its way through all the stray holes in the house.