Forgive me Readers (if any) for I have not blogged about food for over a fortnight!

I just received an email from the Guardian’s Rachel Roddy, about mashed potato. Now I know many people think mash comes in a packet, and you just add water, and some of us are old enough to remember the Cadbury’s Smash robots laughing at our primitive way of making them… “they cut them with their metal knives”.

Normally, I might just read it, and perhaps some of the things it links to, but I was rather impressed with the way Rachel Roddy referenced, in one paragraph, all of…

Rachel Roddy mentions an Italian trattoria, that served

the puree di patate con lardo. It turned out to be a small mound of buttery mashed potato topped with three slices of cured pork back fat that had once been white, but was now translucent as it melted into its mountain. It remains one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten and summed up the joy of mashed potato: ordinary and luxurious, silly and serious. Mash, wonderful mash.

Now, I have wanted to make lardo for ages, but hey, it’s the 21st Century, and farmers in the UK are mostly producing damned skinny pigs, because everyone knows fat is dreadfully bad for us, so you can’t even get pork fat a couple of inches thick, even when you go to a real butcher. Part of the problem is that pigs are not kept until they have time to get properly fat before they’re rushed off to whatever food product factory has the contract for them. It’s the same problem when I make bacon, as well, there’s only just enough fat on it to be able to fry it properly. Once upon a time, you would put bacon in a pan, fry it, fry the eggs in the fat that was left behind, and then soak the fat up with a Staffordshire oatcake, and eat the lot. I once made a batch of Staffordshire oatcakes, and they were wonderful. I must make more, as I no longer live in Staffordshire, and nobody sells ready-made ones here in Wales.

Staffordshire? You know…

Money saving Duck methods

Duck is delicious. Sadly, it’s not cheap. But there are ways to make it less expensive.

Buy a whole duck. A whole Gressingham duck currently sells for about £9.

Meanwhile, two duck breasts cost £8, and two duck legs cost £4.50 or thereabouts.

A whole Gressingham duck, removed from the packaging.

Here’s a whole duck. I’ve pulled the plastic bag of giblets out, and put them in the stock pot, along with the wing tips. There will be more in the pan soon….

Giblets and other bits, waiting for me to make duck stock.

Now, with a very sharp knife, and considerable caution, I have cut one breast off the duck. Not very tidy knife-work, but I’m out of practice…

The duck with one breast cut off.
THe other breast’s gone, and so has this leg.
Here are two legs, and two breasts. £12.50 already, from a £9 duck.

Eventually, one ends up with two duck breasts and two duck legs, for the freezer. When I have collected four legs, I will make confit duck legs.

The duck breasts seem to be smaller than the ones they sell separately. My guess is that they use their biggest ducks for the portions, and sell the smaller ones whole.

Bits of duck, about to become stock.

The rest of the carcase just gets broken up, submerged in water, and boiled for a while, resulting in a delicious stock. What can I use that for, you ask?

Well, I used it for ramen. There wasn’t quite enough duck meat on the carcase for this, so I quickly cooked a couple of chicken thighs, you can see it at the top of the bowl. This was a lovely dish for a cold, wet evening…

A bowl of ramen.

Backing up Windows 10

Of course, you back up Windows 10 using the Windows 7 backup program.

Of course, you have made a System Repair Disc.

Now, you want to make a system image.

But if you have drives C: with the operating system and programs, and D: with only your data on it, which together are bigger than the drive you want to put the system image on, there’s not enough space.

If you just select “Make a system image”, and don’t select a drive, it assumes you want all the discs, and fails again, because “too big”.

You have to select “Make a system image” AND the C: drive BUT NOT the D: drive.

Now, it WILL make a system image…

No, of course it doesn’t.

Notice how a 30.88 Gigabyte backup is too big for a 2 Terabyte drive?

I am so utterly sick of the tripe Microsoft sells as software.

The comments on recipe pages…

Sure, I find recipes online, and sometimes I change things when I don’t have the full list of ingredients. That’s normal, surely? But then there are these people…

“One lemon is sufficient. I added a big bunch of kale at the end as I felt it needed some green. I roasted the squash then added to the pan. I added almonds with the coriander at the end to give a bit of crunch. I made my own harissa paste using chipotle. Nice meal with a depth of flavour.”

This was a “one pot” recipe. If you want kale with it, serve it separately. Of course, you’ve defeated the one-pot-ness of it, but this really won’t taste good if you shove kale in it. And the squash was supposed to disintegrate to make the sauce, but you’ve got nice crusty lumps of squash. Did it even need “a bit of crunch”, what with being a stew and all that implies?

Also, you can’t make harissa with chipotle. You’ve made some sort of chipotle sauce.

Some of the comments are a lot more sensible.

5 stars from us, followed the recipe to the letter and really liked the freshness the lemon brought to it …. Like a tagine but without using expensive preserved lemons. Portions are huge, this made 6 generous portions so some bonus portions for the freezer 😊

Now, call me greedy (OK, I am), but two chicken breasts doesn’t seem particularly generous for six people. I suppose one reason for recipes like this IS to feed more people with less meat, though.

However, if you put cut up a lot of lemons and put them in a big jar with salt, you’ll find preserved lemons are actually not expensive. And they’re brilliant in a tagine!

Cooking temperatures

I had a little rant, a while ago, about the bizarre ways some recipes tell us to judge temperatures.

Many of them involve testing the temperature of hot oil by dropping in a cube of bread, and noting how long it takes to turn “golden”, which is generally described as being around thirty seconds. The size of the cube of bread is rarely, if ever, given. I wonder how many cubes of bread have been wasted in this way? My solution was to buy a cheap electronic thermometer, or perhaps even a quite good one, as the less cheap ones tend to give a reading more quickly.

If you’ve eaten at a commercially run barbecue, for instance, you will have seen the cooks poking a quick reading thermometer into the food, to see if it can safely be eaten, or will cause illness.

I was reminded of this, when I looked up labna/labneh in Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food” recently.

The idea of poking your little finger in the food, and trying to keep it there while counting to ten (and how fast?) when the food is hot enough for it to “sting” is somewhat disturbing.

And don’t try this with hot oil! It will do more than just sting…

Roden, C. (1999). The Book Of Jewish Food. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc.