Chicken with paprika

There was  no fatted calf to welcome home the only son but he he did get a pretty fine roast chicken.

The chicken had been picked up some months go from The Farmer’s Market since when it has languished near the bottom of the freezer waiting for an opportunity to do good. Its time came today.

It came out to defrost last night and was cooked late this afternoon.

As always the most important thing to remember was to take out the small plastic bag of giblets. It was replaced with half a lemon and and half a red onion, some garlic and a fistful of herbs.

The rest of the lemon was squeezed over the bird before it was given a good dusting of salt, pepper and paprika. It then went into the oven for about 90 minutes.

We had it with crusty rice and salad listening to Miles Davis.

It transpires you send the only son to university for 3 three months and he comes back a fan of Tom Waits and jazz. How do these things happen?


Was that it?

At yesterday’s Farmer’ Market I more or less visited and bought something from every stall to a certain extent stocking up for Christmas.

The most important job of the morning was to make sure the chicken stall was there so I could get in my order for a capon for Christmas lunch. Now that the chicken stall isn’t there every month they have lost their regular pitch to the right as you walk in as a consequence of which there was a panicky few seconds as I looked round the hall to try and find them. Fortunately the men who breed the chickens have distinctive beards and they were spotted. I put in my order and was told to be back for the evening of 22 December to pick it up. I now have less than two weeks to work out what to stuff it with.

Next was lunch which was going to be a steak sandwich. There was a fine selection to be had from the man with a grey beard bigger than mine. I managed to find one that wouldn’t face me over lunch and resisted the temptation to buy another bag of potatoes.

There was a time when there were more children in the house a bag of potatoes in the basement bought from The Farmer’s Market wouldn’t last for more than a couple of weeks so I got into the habit of buying a bag every time I went. Now they are starting to stack up in the basement.

Lunch also meant I had to buy a French baguette into which to stuff the steak.

Then onto cheese. There are always two stands selling cheese (and occasionally one or two others) – Lancashire and Cheshire. I bought impressive lumps of both – the Lancashire was tasty and the Cheshire was old. No doubt I shall be making use of them both in my lunchtime sandwiches come January.

It was then on to Wards to buy fish for tea. Slabs of hake to be dusted in flour then cooked hot olive oil and smothered in finely chopped parsley, a squirt of lemon juice before being eaten with potatoes.

Sunday morning was spent buying a Christmas tree from Church Farm. I did this in the company of the youngest daughter who had not gone to bed until around 3.00pm that morning and was clearly anxious to get the purchase out of the way sooner rather than later so that she could get home to bed. To a certain extent this worked to my advantage as for once we managed to avoid buying the most expensive tree available on account of its size but I would have liked to have spent more time looking at the grey diluted light over the Dee.


Sunday afternoon I made beer. Sadly I have left it too late for Christmas Day but with luck and and a following wind it should be ready for New Year’s Eve when no doubt it can have a go at ruining some persons evening. There were a couple of moments of panic that came with the brewing process. The first was after I had scrubbed out the brewing bin and went down to the basement to find the can of malt. I was certain I had bought this last year but with the tidying up done around parties in the basement since there was no saying where it might have gone. In fact there was in that it was gone. I decided that the best way to track it down was to give a good half hour between each scour of the basement in the hope that in the meantime my eyes would find somewhere elsewhere to focus. This eventually worked and the tin was eventually located somewhere quite close to just under my nose. The second panic came as I took out the bag of brewer’s sugar that I was convinced had been lurking in a drawer for the last few months. I was about to pour it into the mix when I noticed the sugar was in fact salt. Disaster averted I found the bag of sugar elsewhere. The tub of mash, sugar, yeast and water is now safely ensconced in the basement and wrapped in a protecting placket the better to help all that sugar turn to alcohol.

Sunday evening was spent cooking a pheasant with potatoes and cider and very good it was too.

The irony of fate

I am sat here listening to the soundtrack to a Russian film called The irony of fate.


The film in fact was a television series spread over three episodes of an hour each. It was made in the late Soviet era and the plot twists around the fact that across the Soviet Uninion identical apartment blocks were put up. The blocks had the same names, the street names were same and unbeknownst to the occupants the keys were same.

On day before New Years Eve a man gets drunk with his friends. Through a combination of bad luck he ends up on a wrong plane. When the plane lands he is still drunk, stumbling a taxi he gives his address and so ends up in a apartment that is identical to his own save that he is the wrong city.

The apartment is owned by a woman who is surprised to find a strange man in her bed when she comes in from having been working the previous night. It transpires that both the man and woman are due to get married to people they don’t love.

The man can’t get home until New Years Day so he is forced to spend News Years Eve with the woman. The irony of fate intervenes and the inevitable happens.

The music is by a renowned Soviet composer, Mikael Tariverdiev. Although renowned over there until recently his music has been unknown and unavailable over here. It is now started to filter through now.

It is beautiful and beguiling and probably quite romantic.

Some of the irony of my fate hit me half way though this afternoon as I was sat at my desk staring at a flickering screen and either trying to write emails, letters and all the detritus that passes through my day. There must be more to life I thought.

What I would have preferred doing was be staring at slightly different flickering screen and trying to finish off the book about mackerel, the book of recipes inspired by the grocers or even make a start on the book trying to fathom how I ended up wanting to listen to so much music from my first single being Gimme Dat Ding by The Pipkins.

I put all aside briefly this evening and made pasta with creamy sauce flavoured with garlic, powerful blue cheese and spinach.

Having polished it off I may just curl up on the safe and press play again.

Persian Oxtail Stew

It is always a good idea before making a start on a recipe not done before to read through the instructions so that when you come across the words “leave to simmer for five hours”, they do not come as too much of a surprise.

Luckily I read through the recipe sufficiently early in the day to give me the hours needed for it to simmer quietly for the requisite period of time.

It is now sat on the stove giving away the odd bubble and filling the house with its deep and serious smell.

Before I took at a look at the recipe there was a walk along Bidston Hill. In the midday sun the air was clear and fresh ad brightened the browns and otherwise subdued shades of late autumn.

The oxtail have been lurking in the bottom of the freezer for a couple of months. They came out to defrost a few weeks ago but then had to go back in when something else came along. There was a slight frustration with this as the one the cookbooks that arrived for my birthday, The Palomar Cookbook, has what looked like a particularly recipe for them.

I knew Sunday was going to be quiet so it seemed an opportune time to take the oxtail out of the freezer again, defrost it properly and give it a seeing to with some oil and spices.

Before frying it off I made a spice mix by crushing together a large amount of cardamom, roasted cumin and coriander seeds, cloves, juniper berries and turmeric. It is the smell of these spices that is filling the house and there is now only two hours to go before it will all be ready.

A vegetarian alternative was made with butternut squash.