My house is warmed

I had a belated housewarming for my new place last night. My North London friends came down to distant south-east St Johns, which was really touching. Here’s what I cooked:

Chorizo in red wine, with the wine switched for cider
Halloumi with chilli
Farinata, an Italian dish made of baked gram flour
Saffron rice
Chickpea and cashew tagine from The Food For Thought Cookbook 1987 (similar… suspiciously so, in fact)
Ratatouille, also from Food For Thought

The star was the chickpea tagine, which was an intriguing mix of sweet and sour and spicy. The chorizo was good too, but it’s quite hard for chorizo not to be. The farinata was interesting – oddly creamy for something that only contains one ingredient – but quite strange for my palate and I probably wouldn’t make it again.

On a geeky note, I discovered my new favourite system for managing many-dish meals: a white board. It’s a simple solution, but writing up a list of the dishes and the cookbook page numbers made a huge difference.

I took a disposable camera for a walk around my new surroundings the other week, and this is what I saw:

Lewisham Market is its own street-ful of stalls.  Three bunches of coriander for a pound = a bargain. Lewisham has a bad rep for crime, but there’s a sense of community here that the stats don’t tell you about.

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My way home goes through Tesco’s car park and I couldn’t resist a shot of this car.

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The alley that leads to my house.

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In the other direction from Lewisham, you end up in Blackheath

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and eventually out by the river at Greenwich.

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I wonder if anyone knows what this is… There’s a patch of water that’s full of brick tiles, worn smooth by the waves of the Thames. Could there have been a tile factory on the site?

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It seems appropriate to end on my favourite adopted cooking pot. It’s. So. Big.

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Christmas Dinner

Apparently not taking photos of events I make food at is becoming a habit. Oh, wait, there is one. Here I am in my parents’ kitchen with my foot in a bucket of cold water after pouring boiling stock on it:

xmas dinner

Also in the bucket: ice (for cooling) and lemon (for hilarity).

After much boasting that my Christmas dinner would not be at the usual time of half three, but at 1 PM sharp, I of course reverted to family tradition and served up at the gloriously late hour of half four.

I blame the lamb. I bought two shoulders of it and they were enormous and unwieldy and failed to fit inside things. They also weighed 6kg between them rather than the 1kg specified by the recipe. Needless to say, parts of the skin was still visibly raw at the time they were due to have finished cooking. I exaggerate, but only a little.

The lamb recipe was a slow-cooked casserole by Lorraine Pascale. To speed the cooking, I resorted to putting each shoulder in a deep baking tray with its juices coming up almost to the top, sealed all around with tin foil. This worked marvellously, except when it came to turn them, because it was almost impossible to do so without sloshing stock over the sides. I spilt boiling stock over the floor at least three times, but after the first time I kept my feet clear.

For the pescetarians, we did salmon en croûte, which was amazing despite being dubbed “ultimate makeover”. I would make again in a flash if I can ever afford salmon fillets (i.e.: next Christmas). I used puff pastry rather than filo and didn’t regret it.

The starter was goat’s cheese and red onion filo parcels. I was pretty pleased with this, and enjoyed using filo for the first time. It’s delicate and fiddly – lots of layering and brushing with butter – and gave me a new level of respect for hapless Bake Off contestants who have to make their own. The red onions, though, were quite wet and didn’t turn deep-coloured and solid. My guess is that they are not meant to be covered while cooking, as  the recipe specifies.