Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A quick update

Apologies for the lack of entries recently but here is a recipes that was made this evening.


1x avocoda
1x dried chilli
2x garlic cloves
1x half lime
A sprinkling of finely chopped red pepper

Finely chop the chilli, garlic and put them in a bowl, squeeze over the lime and add the avocado. Mush up with a fork and add salt. Check for taste - there are those who will say add the lime later but you can correct the taste balance with salt. Add the pepper and serve.

"Real" guacamole should probably have fresh coriander leaves and tomatoes instead of pepper but this one was created out of necessity because we didn't have everything needed in the fridge.


Top tip...we made lamb shanks at the weekend and had loads of lovely juice left went into a chilli tonight so all that lovely juice wasn't wasted.
When we made the lamb shanks we served up some vegetables but we set out to make some stock...the vegetables were an additional bonus...I know they're going to make a nice risotto soon.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Sunday Morning Musings

Vignette time.

It's snowing outside. It's snowed all night and now it is light enough to see the world is silent and white. Yet I am only 7km from the centre of Helsinki, 400m from a busy arterial road and maybe 150 from a main railway line and yet all I hear is silence.


Today the Kitchen will be making some home made sausages, cooking some roast beef and experimenting with some evil Finnish alcohol. I'm reasonably happy about the first two because they're old hat. The third is preparation for Christmas and as I don't know what I'm making tastes like...I'm blind.


Finland isn't a cold land. -4 or -5 is surprisingly OK when you're out an about. However there is a wind that comes off the Baltic that cuts you. It isn't what we call a lazy wind back home. It is a cruel wind. Woe betide you if you are not ready for it.


While out in the cruel wind last week we found a lovely little Italian restaurant. The risotto was passable but the pizza was very good. The Kitchen seemed Italian so they should know what they're doing. Bit odd sitting in the middle of Finland trying to remember holiday Italian.


Had spaghetti carbonara for tea last night. Simple version with cream, cheese and egg. The bacon we bought was lovely. Almost green and almost fresh, it cut beautifully and fried well in the cast iron pan. If only all bacon was like that. I had sharpened my kitchen knife earlier and had sliced a tomato to see if it was sharp enough. In true Kitchen fashion the tomato was not wasted but added to tea.


Until next time and hopefully not so long

Monday, 12 November 2007

The (Finnish) Kitchen re-opens

So here we are a week or so later safely settled into Helsinki and the Kitchen is in action once again. We were lucky that our stuff only arrived one day behind us as we were able to live quite well quite quickly again. Helsinki has been a bit of a revelation after Trondheim in terms of getting the Kitchen going again. Within a few days some chicken had been roasted which really laid the path for some damn find chicken stock to be on hand when the time comes to make a decent risotto.

I am massively excited to have discovered a japanese shop in town which seems to have every ingredient you could wish for if a Japanese meal is on your menu plan. So far we've made a little mackrell with it's skin salted and then grilled served on some sticky rice...who said food needed to be high and fancy to be good. It was never written here and the kitchen does not subscribe to such nonsense.

I must admit that the finnish language poses some challenges but today I learnt what bread and butter is. I know what meat is so it's only a matter of time before we are getting to the good fancy mushrooms down in the market and talking with the stall owners like old pros.....hahaha.

Friday, 26 October 2007

The Kitchen is closed (temporarily)

D Day has finally arrived. The movers came and the kitchen was taken away. It's on it's way to Helsinki. The boss and I are however in Norway for one more week. So we've adopted a camping approach to feeding ourselves.

Faced with the long drive from Trondheim to Helsinki we always knew we had limited space in the car for things. So I've been trying to turn down every request for something to stay with us by imagining a car bursting at the seams with stuff, a 12 hour drive, little daylight and increasingly wintry conditions.

However that still leaves the question of how we shall feed overselves over the next week. The answer is simple. All those odds and ends that have found their way to the freezer because they might add something to a dish I was making have now been dusted down, invented and our lives have been turned into a week long edition of ready, steady, cook. I don't mind this at all. It does lend itself to a rice and stock based diet which bothers me not a bit. The boss is reading this and I've skimmed through a couple of times enough to be able to riff on the basic themes. So lot's of rice, vegetables, ctock (because we can't take it with us and I won't waste it) and fish.

I shall be sad to leave Norway, I have enjoyed living here enormously but I feel quite excited about setting up the Kitchen in Helsinki. My little brother is coming for Christmas and I know the idea of cooking traditional Finnish Christmas Dishes is too appealing to pass up. Oh and by the way it isn't a "winter holiday" it's Christmas. Stop being so damn politically correct!

The final brilliant part of this plan is that as we eat a lot of things that are in the Kitchen Box right now and other bits and bobs like foil and bags will be used up in the next week so there will less stuff going into that car.

Until next time. Waste nothing.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

On the road

We've been away for the last few weeks hence the quietness on the blogging front but hopefully this post will tidy up a few odds and ends and get a few recipes out there and bring everything bang up to date.

We left Norway on the 9th October for Copenhagen to see Crowded House at Amagerbro. It turned out to be an old Cinema converted to a concert venue and the size was small enough to be intimate, big enough not to be like playing squash with elephants in the back of a mini. The band were on excellent form and seemed to tear up the set list from the first song to the last and we were treated to all the classics and few belting new tunes. All round top gig.

Then we went on the UK to make wedding arrangements. We have a date - 31st May 2008. I assure you now that the Kitchen will be closed that day!

I also managed a walk in the Lakes while we were in the UK and we were treated to a mid october day so lovely I was wearing shorts!


Before we left for Copenhagen we managed to harvest some of the plum tomatoes we've been growing just for the purpose of making passata. I have to give credit where due and I used this recipe here. A by product of this process was I had a lot of lovely tomato juice left over so last night we made a quick pasta supper and the recipe is as follows:

Chop up some onion and a fresh chilli.
Heat a little oil in a pan and add onion and chilli and fry gently.
Add some bacon that is chopped up and some courgette.
Put on some water to boil for the pasta.
Add the tomato water to the frying pan and leave to simmer.
Add some salt to the pasta water and when it is at a rolling boil add pasta.
Dash of cream to the frying pan. (We added a dash of flour to thicken up the sauce and it worked really well.)
When pasta is cooked serve with some fresh basil leaves on top.

Just a few things to remember
The tomato water is pretty salty already so you're not going to need a lot of seasoning.
Add a little water to the flour before it goes into the pan.

It was a simple and tasty supper and best of all it was using left overs that might ordinarily have been thrown out. Always good to live up to the Kitchen's ideal to waste nothing.


While I was cooking that supper I was suddenly struck by the question of whether rosemary and chilli were a good combination. I'm not sure but it sounds exciting so hopefully there will be some experimenting and reporting back.


Finally it is worth mentioning that we have been very lucky this year in the Kitchen to have got hold of some fantastic home grown ingredients - garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, turnips, chill, basil and carrots to name a few. It does make a difference to your cooking when the ingredients are fresh. I'm hoping when next years growing season comes around all the things we've learnt this year about the Scandanavian growing season help us to manage the plants better so we get a bit more and I can have the challenge of making sure nothing is wasted!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Adventures out in the Kingdom

Last weekend out and about in Norway we met enough snow to convince anyone that winter had muscled autumn out of the way and settled in. Six days later and it is all change. We headed out again to the north western fjords and were treated to beautiful big blue skies and a countryside closing down after the tourist season, in other words we had it to ourselves and we were lucky with the weather.

Away from the Kitchen in my day job I have had an almost unending line of my colleagues enthusing about one place or another as special in Norway. This weekend plan was to drive from Trondheim to Innerdal and then onto the Trollstiggen road, over the water to Geirangerfjord and finally up to Ålesund and take the coastal express home to Trondheim.

I have to say that it surpassed my expectations and while I am ready to relocate the Kitchen to Helsinki I cannot claim that I am not sad to be leaving. However this weekend went someway to making sure that packing away the Kitchen will be done with a sense that the opportunity (however short) was taken.


The Kitchen was briefly out in the wild when we came to cook dinner on Saturday night in a self service hytte high above the town of Tafjord. We had no idea what we would meet in the hytte so I was delighted that the choice to cook a steak was rewarded with a heavy cast iron pan which cooked them beautifully. To all others in the area enjoying the solitutude I can only apologize for setting off the smoke alarm!! We also had some leeks that we cooked in butter and served on top which added a little twist on the old classic of steak and onions. I used the same cast iron pan and loved the way that some parts were crisp and others still had a bite to them. Try it.


The turnip soup worked and here is the recipe

Wash, clean and chop up the Turnips and add a few potatoes.
Cover with water, salt and boil.
Once cooked - puree. You will need the cooking water for this so make sure you save it.
Return to the pan, season and heat up gently.
Add cream.
At this stage I added something spicy to give it a little oomph. This can be as simple as pepper and as complicated as Garam Masala or Chilli flakes. Don't go mad, you don't want to obliterate the taste of the Turnip.
Cook for a few minutes.
Check seasoning and serve.

Keep cooking and don't waste anything!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Out of the Kitchen to Hoth

Soon it will be time to shut the Kitchen down and move it to Helsinki. Before that happens we will have a few weekends when things are quiet to get out and see a little of Norway before the year runs away with us.

Just to show how far things are advanced here I've included a photo from a wedding we attended at the weekend. We had a chance to take a quick walk before the ceremony and I've since discovered we were wandering over pretty much most of the film locations used in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Walking is one of my passions along with cooking and a spell away from the Kitchen can be a real good way to get yourself enthused again.

Tomorrow night I'm going to make a simple turnip soup. I kind of figured it out in my head earlier today and then did the research and I was very close. It's part of what I'm striving for in the Kitchen - a store of knowledge about the food we eat so that no matter what ingredients land in front of me something tasty, something worth sharing with friends, something comforting, somthing nurishing will come out. The simple stuff and the fancy stuff, it all needs to come from within, the recipe book in front needs to be less important than the knowledge in your head.

So if this turnip soup works well I'll be heading out for another walk.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Seasons & soppjakt

The year is turning fast, summer is really gone. All those weeks I managed to run around the house in my shorts are just a memory and we have really begun to think about buying some more woolen underwear.

This week the kitchen has been mirroring the change. Friday night, after a long week at work we managed to turn out a deeply autumnal risotto that welcomed in the change of the season. It came about in a good way which was true to the kitchen's ethic that it is wrong to waste food.

Last week when the boss was away I prepared some Palette du Porc a la biere for her return. It was delicious but we had too much sauce left over. So for our first risotto of autumn 2007 we converted the sauce into a stock (or in laymans terms we diluted it with water) for the risotto which gave it a deep richness that allowed the simple ingredients we used. I'm sure there are purists out there who would decry me for allowing a sauce that had french mustard in it anywhere near a risotto but I don't care.

In a slightly odd counterpoint to this the boss & I kicked back last night after service and had a couple of wonderfully stiff mojitos to say goodbye to a great summer.

As if further evidence was needed of the march of time the first snow was seen on Vassfjellet this morning when we got up. Unperturbed by this we went to nearby Bymarka to collect wild mushrooms and endured a day where we were snowed on, rained on, blown about and generally treated like a rag by the elements. Luckily we were well wrapped up so it was great fun to be out. The hunt itself was a desperately frustrating affair as we managed about 4 pig fungus and 1 small chanterelle. Still they were put to good use in tonights service.

Moving time is soon upon us so the challenge now is to empty the freezer of as much as possible. This makes service in the Kitchen very simple but probably means there'll be more time to clean which is my least favourite job!

Keep cooking and waste nothing!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Top tip

It's so simple but mix chorizo and slab bacon together. They bring out good things in each other.

Green Tea Ice Cream

We had a friend over for dinner on Sunday and decided that in his honour we needed to cook some Japanese food. He's German so Japanese was the natural choice!

What was due to be a fairly simple meat and rice dish became much more fun as we made some miso soup and some green tea ice cream.

First of all when it comes to Miso soup you need your Dashi stock. Like any stock home made stock is better than packet bought instant. Yes in mid Norway it is difficult to find seaweed and bonito flakes to make an authentic dashi but where there is a will there is a way and the results are better for it. So next time you make miso, go out and make proper stock.

Next time you make anything that needs stock - make your own.

Make a lot.

Freeze the excess.

It is worth it.

The other thing we made was green tea ice cream. This was hand made old fashioned ice cream needed just sugar, egg yolks, milk, cream and green tea powder. For those of you who are sceptical - it tasted wonderful, it wasn't too hard to make and it is a real wow at the table.

I'm very excited that the relocation of the Kitchen to Helsinki will make the availability of ingredients for Japanese food so much easier than here in Trondheim. However much I am enjoying the idea of living in a big, cosmopolitan town again there is a part of me that will be sad that the inventiveness that was needed here will be gone in the face of all the odd ingredients you could wish for in a big city.
Still no stopping progress hey?

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Getting ready to grow up

Tonight I am on my own in the Kitchen. My partner in crime has decided to head to England for a few days so I was left holding the fort and today was wine bottling day.

We've had some wine on the go for the last 6-8 weeks or so and today was, according to the schedule, bottling day. So after work I have gamely steriles anything even remotely concerning bottling (except myself) and have put wine into 15 bottles and have filled 2 x 5litre containers awaiting the next arrival of bottles. The kitchen is strictly artisan.

I actually thought that wouold be enough for tonights menu but was caught myself having so much fun that I did a ready, steady cook with the contents of the fridge. So here is a classic after work, weekday dish.

Salt & Pepper
Basil leaves

The basic principle here is that this dish should take no longer than it takes for the pasta to cook. So if it does you need to go back and try again.

Saute pan - cast iron, warm it up and then turn the heat down.
Olive oil
Chopped onions, garlic into the pan
Pasta on
Add chorizo to saute pan, brown
Add chilli - to illustrate how much of a cheats dish this is I took mine straight out of the freezer (yes you can freeze fresh chilli), chopped it and put it in
Add peas - whatever you have is fine, the best of course is straight out of your own garden. Tonight because of a stupid bet I used an out of date tin of marrowfat still tasted good.
Check pasta if cooked, drain and add to saute pan. Turn thge heat off. Good lug of olive oil and then onto the plate.
Pepper and cheese.
Last thing a few basil leaves, yes they struggle with the chorizo and the chilli but every now and then you just get something with them so I think it's worthwhile.


I was thinking earlier today that I need to define what kind of cook I am, I have a leaning towards bistro cooking (French) and Italian (specifically risottos, dishes involving pulses and pasta with sauces so generally the penne, fettucine variety), Thai and I like the idea of home made burgers and bread. I am not a great cooker of Chinese, Jewish, Turkish, Norwegian (although I have dabbled in that). Right now I think I wan t to go deeper into the few subjects I know about rather than wider. I still have a few quests - pastry, mentioned before but the others are

To be able to make a really good omlette with my eyes closed and to make a really good poached egg. Not just once but time after time after time.

Simple hey?

Am I talking about love or food?

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The Kitchen Re Opens!

Some of you may have noticed. Others might have missed it. The Kitchen closed in July and for some reason never got around to re opening in the summer. Life was being lived at a hectic pace, there were a lot of adventures, beer, food, travel and work. It was a work hard and play hard time but it didn't leave a lot of time to cook. Not in the way that inspires me to blog. It seemed like cooking was just another fuel stop on the way to the next horizon.

However now a cold coming at the end of the good summer weather, house hunting in Finland and big things at work have brought about a whopping great big full stop in my activities and actually allowed the kitchen to get a look in.

We will move to Finland in November which will necessitate the kitchen closing for a while but in the meantime I'm on a quest to find some wild mushrooms and to cook them with a nice juicy steak and a glass of red wine.

The home made wine will be ready for bottling in the next few days and that should be interesting and hopefully dreadfully alcoholic!


In other sad news my auntie Ivy passed away late last week and I don't know if I will make it to the funeral next Tuesday. What I do remember is the time we made one of those awful choclate rolls that you cover with some kind of sugary spread and serve at christmas. I didn't quite remember the whole recipe so we used normal sugar instead of caster or icing sugar. You can imagine how we had to crunch our way through the most unappealing christmas roll ever...however she laughed with me and not at me and that is how I will remember her.

Sunday, 15 July 2007


The Kitchen is doing well at the moment. Seems that whatever was weighing on me and taking the pleasure out of cooking has gone. There are still way too many balls in the air at the moment but at least cooking is no longer one of them.

We've been eating some good stuff lately and I need to talk about some pie filling I made recently.

I used,

Beef - cubed
Garlic - chopped (I view crushing it as some sort of betrayal)
Onion - chopped (I view chopping an onion as some sort of acid test of your attitude to cooking)
Fresh tomatoes
Salt, Pepper and Bay

I literally just bunged it all in a pot and let it go, no red wine, no tomato juice, no nothing I let the ingredients do all the work and it wa lovely. The key - time. This isn't one for people on a schedule...

Looking ahead I'm off to helsinki tomorrow...back on wednesday late. The kitchen is closed but the chef is plotting!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Just an update on my last entry...

No asparagus when out sourcing this morning so it will be grilled fennel and leek instead. I think that could be quite an exciting combination and certainly the presentation possibilities are good.

I bought my little brother one of Bill Granger's books for his birthday despite the fact I have never read one. It was the comment that he can make tired ingredients (in the sense that we can have chicken morning noon and night if we want) taste fresh again. I like that. In fact it plays into park of why I cook. I'm not systematic in my cooking. My blending of flavours is completely instinctive (with a dash of recall!)...I hope the book finds favour.

I'm also plotting one hell of a tour round Norway. Our walk over the weekend through Trollheimen just about killed us but it has whetted my appetite for exploring and I have to figure out how to get Deborah to Innderdalen...Norway's most beautiful valley. I'm not proposing any tough walks, just a trip to this most lovely place and a night or two under canvas. Real fire, homely food. Get the Monkey House Kitchen working in the wild.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Hills and menu plans

I love to cook. That much should be obvious to anyone who has stopped by this blog even casually. However I love to walk as well. The wilder the better. This weekend just gone the Kitchen was mothballed and we headed for the hills. Trollheimen, Norway.

2 days, 45 km, 1350m of vertical ascent and22hrs walking. Luckily for us we went high on Saturday and got the best weather (I have the sunburn to prove it) and as it has been unusally fry here in Norway over the summer months the way back was just about as bone dry as you can expect a bog to be.

I had a great time although my shoulders are stiff from the pack. I'd quite happily head out tomorrow but shan't as it is time toi get the kitchen going again.

In the week ahead we will be cooking

Mon - Parma ham, cherry tomatoes, mozarella and watermelon salad
Tue - Marinated salmon, grilled and served on noodles
Wed - Gammon steaks with grilled leeks and asparagus
Thu - Beef and mushroom pie with cheese mash
Fri - Thai spring rolls with tempura prawns
Sat - Spaghetti carbonara
Sun - Lamb shanks with roast potatoes

There's also a curry that needs making, some bread that needs baking ( I have a feeling it will be some sort of morrocan flatbread with a hummus and lamb kind of meal).

The kitchen is open. I need these kind of walks more often!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Mozarella & Fennel

I've achieved something of a personal goal in the last week. I went swimming in a cold Norwegian Fjord. Ever since we've moved here I've wanted to plunge into the waters that surround us. Mostly to see if I can survive it. The dull fact is, of course, that the water was nowhere near cold enough for survival to be a question. Still it was refreshing and a feeling of 1-0 to me versus the world.

I'm quite a goal driven individual and cooking has often been a means of escaping, a chance to be creative, put on a different skin almost. However recently it has been something of a chore as the inevitable pressures of life seemed to manifest themselves in a bit of a spring tide. It was a little eat for fuel, get on with solving the puzzle and survive.

The big question challenge is whether to move on from Norway to Finland. I won't debate the details but it has hanging over me a bit. So it was great last night to cobble together a bruschetta and some salsa and have it with a bit of Makerel. It was almost as if the bruschetta was the best bit.

For those of you who think a piece of toast will suffuce, let me tell you in no uncertain terms it will not.

Bread, one day old is best. Grill in hot ridged pan. No oil.
When it looks right take it out, rub with garlic, add freshly ground salt and a dribble of olive oil.

Trust me, there is no going back and best of all it is true soul food. Nothing fancy but deeply comforting.

Tonight we borrowed liberally from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries. We tried his Fennel and Mozarella salad which tasted of summer. I thought our version was OK but am heartened that it has a ton of possibilities to be developed according to what you have in the larder.

However more than that, with interesting deliberations ahead on whether to up sticks for Finland, it's good to know that I'm interested in food again as something other than fuel.

Tomorrow night will be a pea and prawn risotto - only a dish to be made if you love to cook! Roll on happy days - I'm back!!!

Friday, 15 June 2007


It's been a while since I've posted - packing up a house, visiting Barcelona with work, packing up some more, visiting my parents in Spain, unpacking again, beginning to tame the jungle that pretends to be our garden - tends to take away time and opportunities to be creative in the kitchen and thus give something to blog about.

Tonight however I have something worthwhile to talk about - food wise.

I'm going to be 34 years old next tuesday and I am known in my family as the one who is serious about food. Both assertions are true but the second should be qualified with the supplementary information that I am a self taught cook, following where my taste buds take me and nowhere near the syllabus of a profesionnal and serious cookery school.

So tonight I have bizarre step foreward that probably can't be underestimated in terms of future cooking options and roads to explore.

I've discovered pastry.

I started cooking when I lived in London after leaving university, my father introduced me to the idea of cooking good food for yourself. He didn't do it in any explicit way but we were there night after night chopping onions, saving a bit of that for something down the line (soup) and adding a bit of that and just chewing the fat. So the lesson that cooking good food is a pleasure and a social thing was one I got at 17. Probably explains the discovery of pastry taking another 17 years!

I then have to thank two friends for developing my interest further. One is a serious foodie who makes me look like an amateur and the other bought me my first serious knife which I have carefully sharpened this eveing.

So that gives us the background and now to tonight.

Red Onion and Goat Cheese Tart.

We have a vegetarian friend staying with us this weekend so we're making this old favourite from a book we have. The way it's always been done in the past is that I would get to chop 1kg of red onions and then Deb would get to make the pastry and finish the tart off, the wierd girly voodoo of pastry been her domain.

Tonight Deb is out for a girly night out and we're going walking tomorrow and will want to eat when we come home after a long day in the mountains and won't want to have to wait forever. I said I'd cook the onions to shorten the process. So I did, went and worked in the garden, did some mindless surfing of the Norwegian post catalogue - it's up to date our new address is there, and came back held back for a while and then just went for it. I winged it, made it up, I had a vague idea there was something to do in respect of baking blind and then just played it by ear. The last part of the process is in the oven now and it looks lovely. Mission accomplished.


While we were in Spain I made a lovely ailioli - eggs, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. We ate it with some butterflied prawns and some butter beans. Lovely.


The cherries are coming to Norway which means it is time to try Clemfoutis again. Last time I tried this I burnt them, not this time. We ate them anyway as it would be a waste not to.

Remember cooking is about doing it from scratch. Never ever about the frozen ready meals. As to the bit left on your plate. It can be used for something later. Tonight the fridge received

*Rice (Egg fried rice?)
*Onions (left over from the tart - souptastic)
*Thai red curry sauce - tonights dinner and instant pick me up to something...or a marinade to some pork chops.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Lesson learnt

Apologies for my absence I've been lucky enough to have been in Barcelona with work which by the most charitable measures would have to count as a great big jolly. If you've never been I recommend it, however for a city that was meant to epitomise food only the main market off Las Ramblas really shouted about being in a different league.

Back in mid Norway the sun is with us an increasing amount of time and it's presence is amazing. The other night we watched the sun go down at 10.30pm knowing it would be back up again before 4am. We're also tuning into to how far it has travelled since the dark days of December to where it is today. It's odd that something so mundane (it happens everyday right?) as the sun going down can have such a profound influence and you know that these really are the days of our lives.

Anyway I digress towards the flamboyant.

I've learnt two reallt good things this week - first keep cooking Japanese food it's tasty and the whole idea of presentation to take the food to another level is finally sinking in. This time I grilled some Salmon fillets that I had cut in 3 after they had been marinated in sake, soy sauce, mirin and lemon. I served it with some simple rice but managed to find a mould to shape the rice and it worked. I think it is probably the first time that I realised that photos might work on the blog. Although there is something a bit, you know, show offy by putting photos on but I just need to learn how to put them up there and get on with it!

The other thing was we had a BBQ this evening - I managed to wait almost long enough (I'm a boy, I'm pathologically incapable of being completely patient) before starting to cook and the results were good.

Lamb Cutlets
4 x lamb cutlets

Marinade in olive oil, red wine, thyme, oregano, paprika - the longer the better.

Sweetcorn - do not think it is a good idea to wrap in foil and add basil to the butter, trust me it actually detracts from the corn. Maybe there is something that works but it isn't basil. Isn't that wierd? Basil is wonderful after all. Ho hum. Still I suppose Spiderman 3 was on paper...

Moving house this week, then I have a week in Spain so will probably be very quiet.

Don't waste anything remember leftovers are tomorrows tasty meal.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Voodoo dolls and Pesto

Yesterday was the 17th May. To most of the world that's just your normal day, to anyone who is Norwegian or remotely a norwegianophile will know that it was Norway's national day. We experienced the whole kit and caboodle of Norwegian nationalism which is about as threatening as a warming hug from your favourite grandma. This blog is about food but I have a question to do the norwegians get it so right with something as scary as nationalism and so wrong with food?? Any genius philospohers out there feel free to step up to the plate with an answer.

Anyway onto Pesto. Tonight we experimented with avocado and pesto. I am an unreconstructed fan of both. I could write poetry about Bacon, Avocado and Hummus or pesto. The two together had me heading to cold sweat territory with the worry that 2 great things don't necessarily make an even greater combo. Just look to Dylan and the Dead.

However I am pleased to report that home made pesto (and if you're not doing it yourself why the hell not??) and ripe avocado are a great combo. We used them tonight on some oven grilled pork chops which frankly smacks of it's friday, it's been a long week my imagination has already had a few beers more than me kind of approach to cooking that I am happy to encourage and they enlivened the meal without going into overkill territory.

So here's the recipe

2 -4 gloves of garlic (remember the more you put in the hotter the pesto will taste and too hot is not a good thing)
A load of basil - some recipes I've come across say a good handfull, others a cup. Look at the state of your basil and if it's a bit tired don't be afraid to ramp it up a bit, if it's the most beautiful basil exercise some restraint.
Beat the hell out these two in a pestle and mortar.
Add parmesan and pine nuts, again be sensible...the point is to have a green crunchy paste.
Add olive oil to make it a sauce.
Finally add you avocado and make it into a lovely sauce.

Use judiciously. Remember - there is no excuse to waste food, tonights experiment came about because we have avocados that need eating up.

Apart from that we've had some good Japanese food. Try some marinated mackeral with rice and potato salad. It's good.

The basic principle of the marinade is

*Rice Vinegar
*Caster Sugar

Play with proportions and enjoy.

Off to Barcelona on sunday so hopefully will be inspired. However am planning a gorgeous Thai Red Curry tomorrow night.

Your going to have to wait to find out about voodoo dolls.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Chutney is special

There. I think that sums it up.

No only joking.

OK lets get to the point. Curry. Tonight we made Rose Elliot's vegetarian curry from her book Fast, Fresh and Fabulous. I'm not given to too much over dramatising generally but it was rubbish.

Sorry Rose but it's a fact.

If I can state my tuppence worth it would go something like this.

Curry needs spices, aroma, and a real flavour. Yes this was meant to be something quick, easy to make after a hard day at work but that's no excuse for omitting the basics. Fortunately we saved the day with the timely injection of some Harissa and some spicy poppadums.

Never trust a curry recipe that lacks spices in the ingredients because it will lack taste in the eating.

Still it won't be wasted. The leftovers will probably be put to use in a soup.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

I'd like to thank the academy

It's been a busy few days in the monkey house kitchen. Money is tight (pay day is way too far off) and there's hungry folk to feed, philosophising to get done and it all needs to be wrapped up in apple pie in time for the credits to roll.

So what have we made?

Well on Saturday we went Japanese and had Vegetables wrapped in beef, rice balls served with miso and carrot soup.

If you haven't tried rice balls they are a revelation...OK I haven't figured out how to make them small enough so that eating them is elegant but they were tasty. My top tip to you is to make sure your filling is up to scratch because that is the best bit. The other peice of advice is to expect to get your hands covered in sticky's part of the fun.

Sunday was a simple Carbonara which for once I resisted my urge to mess with and it simply stood or fell by it's ingredients and it worked, simple food just cooked and served.

Last night we had some mozarella cheese with basil and tomato. Again there's nothing fancy in it but it does taste good. Maybe there's a mention of that dish somewhere in an earlier posting. I wouldn't be surprised it could be argued that it is Italy's crowning contribution to food culture. Wonder who'll pounce on me for being so outspoken??

So tonight we shamelessly used Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries and made his May dish of chickpeas, tomato and aubergine salad with a harissa dressing. What can I say it was lovely. However it's my recipe now and it will be developed in new and exciting ways!!

Keep cooking, keep eating and waste nothing.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007


My sister and her husband have been with us over the weekend and it was a chance to do some cooking and some catching up. I quite enjoy playing chef on these occasions and when there's a challenge to it as well that's always a bonus.

The plan had been

Thurs - arrival
Fri - Pork chops in a mustard sauce
Sat - Reindeer in a leek, mushroom and cream sauce
Sun - Vegetables wrapped in thinly sliced beef Japanese style
Mon - Out to a Thai restaurant.

On top of that there were plans for trips out and trying the Norwegian tradition of grill pølse.

In the end it didn't quite happen like that.

For one, and this is where the challenge comes in, they like their food simple, direct and full of traditional english flavours. So Japanese just didn't sound appealing enough. So we ended up cooking a Thai Green Curry instead - don't ask me what that has to do with English culture but it's a curry so that probably covers it.

We also ended up eating Mackerel. It's just the start of the season here so it was with delight that we purchased 4 beauties in the supermarket. 2 kilos worth - a meal fit for a king. They were simply grilled and served with mashed potatoes and veggies. I'm all for messing with flavours but sometimes it is very good to just let the food do the work and frshly grilled mackerel in season is the way to do it.

However next time I'mk going to cover them in a vicous rub as I think it could also be quite special.

Tonight they've gone home so it's just me and Deb - so some Spanish style chicken. Report on that soon.

As for the Lancaster of the title - we found the wreck of an old World War 2 bomber out in the middle of nowhere in Norway. More info can be found here It is a bit odd to find bits of a conflict that ended 60years ago. Makes me realise how lucky I am.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Sort of

My father was and probably still is a great soup maker. His soups are not some recipe effort in fact if a recpie exists it goes along the lines of

See what is a leftover.
Blend to make a soup.

I know it comes from his experiences growing up in the 2nd world war and experiencing a shortage of food. He doesn't waste anything and in a funny way he has influenced me. I have never known how it feels to go without food. I have always had enough money to go and buy food. I can buy strange, exotic food and take time with it.

However I've moved countries recently and am now living on one wage. Sort of but that's another story. So for one strange reason or another I fancied a week of eating healthily. So far we've had

*Miso soup with aubergines - the dashi stock was home made and it was good.
*Thai bean cakes with noodles - see an earlier entry for more on them

It was a sort of potato and broccoli soup.

I used some left over stock from an earlier meat dish, cooked some potatoes and some broccoli and blended them till they were almost creamed. Combined. Served.

Today for lunch I went back to the remainders and added cream, not too much, a little paprika, some soy sauce and some bacony lardons style things. The result was a much more wholesome, tasty, a la Dad soup.

Tomorrow will be some sort of spicy sqaush surprise...maybe there'll be leftovers. Maybe there'll be soup. Sort of.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007


Easter was brilliant. All that preparation was worth it. We went out into the wilds of Norway (OK only a few km from the safety of the pub which is a rarity enough in these northern climes) and when we came home there was some fab grub just waiting to be eaten with relatively little effort. I'm sorry for going all Jamie Oliver there but I was having a Saul on the road to Damascus moment there.

Maybe it's time for some context.

I like food. Duh.
I like to cook from scratch.
I'm not some flamboyant chef but ask me to throw in some alcohol and I'm there with no thought for burning down the house.
I'm busy. I hold down a reasonably demanding job so cooking fulfils a basic need to receive nutrition.
It's just I enjoy it.

So since Easter we've been working our way through some of the usual things in our repetoire. As well as a few new things.

I tried Japanese egg rolls earlier in the week and made a complete hash of them...they tasted great, they looked awful. I wouldn't have served them to my cat (If I had one). So maybe to context list up there you can add vanity.

I will have to name check Elizabeth David here because she wrote in brilliant terms about people who cook just to get fuel are missing an enormous point (I'm paraphrasing wildly here so forgive me). She wrote with passion for food and for eating, not some roman excess, just good food made sensibly and with a desire to give pleasure to those who eat it. Now the fact it has to look good. That's just the way we're wired as humans.

So tonight I made some Thai chilli bean cakes, a vegetarian version of Thai crab cakes or fish cakes. They were OK but nothing like the crispy darlings in the cookbook.

I wonder if there's a moral in there somewhere???

Thursday, 5 April 2007

The kitchen's a thumping

Easter. Get away, relax, out in the fresh air. Eat. Drink. Be merry.

Cook. Cook. Cook.

Freinds are arriving this evening and we're off for 4 days exploring the wilds of Norway. We know where we're heading has the most insignificant of kitchens so it's being a day of prep prep prep.

Today the Kitchen has produced:

Choclate cake
Fresh pesto sauce
Garam Masala
Chicken Korma
Chicken and potato pie
4 loaves of bread
8 Choclate brioches are on the way
Lunch for us.
500ml of good chicken stock for future use in a risotto or something equally good

The Curry was made from scratch, no preprepared sauces, no nothing just me and a load of ingredients.

I know we eat too much in this house in a general most people in the western world eat too much kind of way but we try to waste nothing and mostly it's a success.

Eat like a king, just don't throw it out like an idiot.

Hopefully we'll get some pictures up soon so you can see that I like my bread looking rustic!!

Remember never buy frozen pizza....

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Egg fried rice

I feel like Betrand Russell. Well sort of. Egg fried rice is one of those dishes that I love to cook. Generally it involves leftovers and I always cook too much rice for other meals to give myself a reason to make it. However it does present do they get it the way they do in good (and bad) chinese restaurants? Maybe Ken Hom doesn't let all his secrets out of the bag???

So tonight it was egg fried rice, no meat and an attempt to avoid Chinese 5 spice. Yes, it is a useful seasoning but it can get a bit repetive so here's my take for tonight.

1x red onion
1x red pepper
4x spring onion
2x mushrooms
6x cherry tomatoes
All chopped and fried in vegetable oil adulderated with seasame oil, tabasco and some kind of thai chicken powder.

The rice was a mixture of vinegared sushi rice and basamiti rice.
The egg mixture was
3x beaten eggs
1x dash soy
1x dash sesame
1x dash water

You can guess the rest.
Yes it wasn't classy but it was tasty and after a long day at work and a cycle ride home it was a touch of easy soul food. Oh by the way serve with some expensive red wine and make like you're Anthoiny Bordain....

Sometimes it is good to turn on the fancy stuff for no one but yourself and sometimes it's fun to relax. Just don't buy frozen pizza. Ever.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Monkey House restaurant

Deb has suggested some sort of Nigel Slateresque Kitchen Diaries for our own good selves. This is not a bad idea but I'm not sure how to go about it...a litany of everything we eat for dinner doesn't seem that interesting per se but it's clear there is some mileage in the subject. I've thought about a ratings system so I can score meals as well...for example pasta scores x and noodles scores make it more fun and also be a little discerning about what we eat. Let's deal with some subjective facts here; we think we eat healthily. Now the question is do we?
Let's find out.
Tonights dinner was
Entrecote served with pan fried red onions, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms accompanied by mashed potatoes and spinach.
So let's see...
Rare steak...not good in large quantities
Rest is pretty OK.
So the challenge now is to balance it...time to dig out the lentils..