All Tell and No Show

I was a No Show at Craft Club last night, as the car refused to start when it came time to go out. It is on charge now, so my planned trip to town is cancelled too.

I’ve nothing to Show today. Several parcels are on their way, so we shall have a visual feast next week. For this week, I’ll settle for a Tell instead. Shall we do Cooking?

I mentioned on Twitter that I had to make a scratch plan  for lunch, as I am in and not out. I mentioned Couscous and Halloumi and Steph asked if I have a recipe. I don’t. I’m not really that kind of cook. The best I can usually do is to outline my approach to a dish.

Actually, we have been eating very well these last few days and I half had it in my mind to blog a couple of dishes anyway.

Saturday was brilliant. We normally have a curry, which Mr L makes these days. This week he fancied a change.

When I was working, we shared the cooking on Saturdays and used to travel the world of cuisine with meals themed by country. I always treasured those sessions, so it was good this weekend to share some pasta-making. Egg pasta — made with our own fresh eggs! That was a thrill indeed. The paste looked amazing — so golden yellow that it looked like marzipan. It was also the best pasta paste that we have made to date — silky smooth, manageable, and it held together right to the thinnest setting on the machine. We made Tagliatelle.

There were King Prawns in the house: I sauteed some chillis and garlic in oil, then added strips of red pepper and stir fried them for a minute before adding in the prawns. A large dollop of tomato paste was followed by a small amount of hot water, in which I had been soaking some dried Basil. A quick stir, and it was done. We added a sald, with an Italian style dressing, and some crusty bread to dunk. Lovely

On Sunday we skipped dinner and opted for a fryup for brunch instead (we never have both Sunday Breakfast and Sunday Dinner – always one or t’other.) I made cheese scones for tea, which we topped with black pepper Boursin and the remainder of the Sugar Drop tomatoes (delicious and sweet) left over from Saturday’s salad. We managed half the scones, and so…

…elected to make soup on Monday to eat up the scones with. I made mushroom soup because I had one of those huge Value boxes from Tesco. We both agreed that this may have been the best soup that I have ever made. It went something like this…

Cream of Mushroom and Madeira Soup

  • sautee some chopped spring onions (scallions) in a knob of butter- I used 4, I think
  • with a crushed clove of garlic
  • roughly chop half   a value box of mushrooms and add to the pan to sweat
  • (while this is happening heat up some milk with some unsalted butter and whang it through the cream maker on the Kenwood)
  • (and chuck the leftover scones in the oven to warm)
  • wrangle the last of the Madeira cooking wine out of the box and onto the mushroom mixture
  • add a tsp of dried tarragon (no fresh in the house)
  • turn up the heat to evaporate the wine
  • add a cupful of hot water in which is dissolved a Knorr vegetable stock cube
  • simmer for a few moments then blitz with stick blender
  • stir in the cream once the Kenwood has stopped squirting
  • bring back to the heat
  • rescue the scones
  • serve

That’s it – 15 minutes start to finish and it was Fab-u-lous

For tea we had salad sandwiches. I forgot to make the granary bread we were going to use, so we thawed some white rolls from the freezer. I hard boiled two of our eggs – giving them 5 minutes instead of the 8 I would normally give a shop bought large egg (6 minutes would have been better.) Some fresh leaves, cucumber, tomato and onion, with a kiss of mayo. Lovely grub. Shame about the granary bread, though — I think it is a pre-requisite for a perfect salad sarnie.

That brings us to today and the couscous and halloumi that I mentioned. I love couscous. It’s brilliant – so fast and so easy and so amenable to creativity. I usually extemporise about the basics. Given a choice, Mr L will always ask for fried Halloumi cheese and tomato sauce with his couscous, but you can do lots of other things with it. Today I am actually going to use a packet mix for the couscous — we got a case of these from Approved Foods for 99p a while back and they need using up. If I was going from scratch it would look a bit like this…

  • finely chop an onion (red is good) and crush some garlic while contemplating what else to add to the couscous
  • sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil or butter or a mixture.
  • a little finely chopped chilli goes well at this stage if you want to spice things up
  • add any other ingredients that need cooking or that benefit from soaking up the flavours – I use things like diced peppers, pine nuts, chopped dried apricots, sultanas, almonds, grated lemon rind, dried spices – not all together, ye ken… just choose a few flavours that marry well together and keep a Middle Eastern sense in mind for best results – or go mad, choose Mediterranean flavours if you wish.
  • when the onions are translucent, chuck in the couscous and stir it around
  • if you are using dried herbs, chuck them in now
  • add stock (or water) and bring to boil.
  • Stir, cover, draw off heat.
  • Stand for fibe minutes before fluffing with a fork
  • If using fresh herbs, add them now.
  • You can also add a knob of butter if not watching your waistline

Get hold of a block of Halloumi cheese and slice it or cube it. I like slices about 1/4″ thick. Drop them onto a heated frying pan or griddle – not too hot, though. No fat required. Now, hold your nerve. Wait until the cheese looks kind of relaxed. Flip it over and note the wonderful golden colour. Cook the other side to the same golden degree.

Pile the cheese slices onto the halloumi.

A tomato sauce is good. A spicy tomato sauce is better. Just add some chilli to your basic canned tomato sauce. I use some kind of variation around a recipe that I found on the Internet years ago, and it involves adding a sugar and vinegar reduction. Fussy, but oh-so-worth-it.

Today I’ll use the packet, as I said – the story is never that simple, though as I cannot resist a few additions as I go along. The sauce will be a simple one, but it will be hot and spicy. I’ll be char-grilling some red and yellow peppers to pile on with the cheese.

Addendum: I found that recipe! Here I present it. I can’t find any attribution for it — the original appears to have vanished from the ‘net. I’ll gladly take it down again if I receive any complaint. I recall this as being very good indeed…

Aubergine Fritters on a Mango and Ginger Couscous with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 30 mins to 1 hour


4 slices aubergines, 5mm/¼in thick
2 slices mozzarella
125g-175g/4-6oz couscous per portion
fresh chopped mango
pinch of ground ginger
fresh chopped mint and coriander

For the tomato sauce:
1 red onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
a little olive oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 small can plum tomatoes
a few fresh, chopped tomatoes
200ml/7fl oz stock or water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp brown sugar
10g/½tbsp white wine vinegar
chopped herbs

For the batter:
225g/8oz self-raising flour
60ml/2fl oz malt vinegar
290ml/½ pint milk or water

1. Sandwich together the aubergine and mozzarella (2 slices of aubergine and 1 of mozzarella for each).
2. Cook the couscous (2 parts boiling water to 1 part couscous, add the boiling water gradually to the couscous, stirring until swelled up and the grains are loose and separate).
3. Add the mango, ginger and herbs and season lightly with salt and pepper.
4. For the batter, beat the self-raising flour, with the malt vinegar and milk or water, gradually beat into a thick batter, adding the milk/water to the flour.
5. For the tomato sauce fry the red onion, garlic, red and green chilli, small bunch of fresh chopped basil in a little olive oil, add the tomato purée, leave to cook gently for a few minutes, then add the can of plum tomatoes and a few fresh chopped tomatoes. Add the stock/water and leave to cook over a gentle to medium heat for about 20-25 minutes until reduced and thickened.
6. Taste for seasoning.To finish the sauce off in a small pan add 15g/1 tbsp of brown sugar and 2 tbsp of white wine vinegar and reduce to almost a caramel, and add to the sauce with a few more chopped herbs. Blend sauce.
7. Dust the aubergine fritters in seasoned flour and coat in batter and deep fry until golden and aubergine has cooked through.
8. Serve the fritters on the mango and ginger couscous with the spicy tomato sauce around the plate.

I am looking for a plug-in that will make printable recipe cards from recipes in the blog. Anybody know of such a thing, preferably a free one?

One Comment

  1. Susan aka paintermom
    February 4, 2011

    You’re making me hungry just reading!

    Hope all is well with you.

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