Friday: salmon with vodka, chilli and lime, served with citrus couscous. Recipe from NiceMisterSainsbury, back when they still had the super food-o-mat machine things that you put your reward card in and it printed out a recipe on a long strip of paper. It's one of those recipes which is pretty obvious really once you've heard the idea, but here it is anyway:
|For the vodka and lime salmon||For the citrus couscous|
|15ml spoon vegetable oil to grease foil
4 x 125g salmon fillets
2 x 15ml spoons vodka
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 chilli, deseeded and finely diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of fresh lime
1 vegetable stock cube made up with 400ml boiling water
zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and finely diced
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
20g pack fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, gas mark 6.
2. For the vodka and lime salmon, lightly oil a square of foil and place the salmon fillets in the centre.
3. Mix the vodka, lime zest and juice, chilli and seasoning together and pour over the salmon. Top each fillet with a slice of lime.
4. Wrap the salmon in the foil to make a parcel and place on a baking tray. Cook in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until the fish flakes.
5. Meanwhile, for the citrus couscous, make up the couscous following pack instructions using the hot vegetable stock. Stir through the other ingredients, and season to taste.
6. Remove the salmon from the goil and serve with all its juices on a bed of the citrus couscous.
Saturday: Steve's spiced red lentils. Another recipe from Sainsburys, this time from their magazine back in 1996, via Nicola who had cut it out and saved it. It's a time-consuming thing to cook, but it's really worth it; it's a riot of flavours, definitely spiced rather than hot.
9oz (250g) split red lentils
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
3oz (75g) butter
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
2 level teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1½ rounded teaspoons whole black or yellow mustard seeds
3 level teaspoons ground turmeric
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
4-5 thick slices fresh ginger, unpeeled
14oz (400g) fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped [actually we used canned tomatoes]
juice 1 large lime or 2 small limes
1 x 15g pack fresh coriander, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pan, fry the onions in half the butter, until pale golden. Add half the sliced garlic, the carrot and the whole spices and continue to cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Stir the turmeric in until well blended, and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes. Tip the lentils in and add 10fl oz (275ml) of water, the coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes, 1 heaped teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Bring up to a simmer and cook very gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and have all but dissolved into the liquid.
Remove the lentils from the heat. Melt the remaining butter in a small pan and, when it starts to froth, throw in the rest of the sliced garlic and stir it around vigorously, until it starts to take on a little colour. Tip it into the lentils immediately, stirring as you go (watch out for the spluttering). Add the lime juice and coriander, then taste, adding more salt if necessary. Cover and leave to mellow for 10 minutes before serving, removing the slices of ginger before you do so. The mixture should retain enough heat to eat without reheating; this sort of dish does not taste as good when eaten piping hot anyway.
Sunday: Roast 'boneless leg' of pork, served with roast Charlotte potatoes (with rosemary and cracked sea salt), carrots, steamed baby cabbage, and broccoli. And apple sauce. (FIVE PORTIONS AT LEAST, Mister Sainsbury!)
No recipe for this one because basically I just followed the instructions on the label for the pork (first rubbing salt into the skin and then STABBING it with a knife and inserting SHEDLOADS of garlic into the, um, wounds) and did the obvious thing with the vegetables, where "the obvious thing" is to leave cooking them until far too late so that they actually become ready about an hour after the pork, and then panic right at the end and shove the carrots in the microwave, only to find that they take just as long that way.
But it was the first time I'd done a roast more-or-less-on-my-own (though with tons of moral support and extra hands from addedentry) and overall I thought it went fairly well.
At some point in the weekend I found time to make coconut macaroons as well, using a super-easy recipe from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking by Martha Day. It goes like this:
1½ oz (45g) plain flour
⅛ tsp salt
8 oz (225g) dessicated coconut
5½ fl oz (170ml) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Preheat a 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 oven. Grease 2 baking sheets.
2. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the coconut.
3. Pour in the milk. Add the vanilla and stir from the centre to make a very thick mixture.
4. Drop heaped tablespoons of mixture 1 in (2.5cm) apart on the sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.
And THAT'S IT! Except that while I was stirring the thing in a kitchen full of limes, addedentry had the idea of putting lime zest in the mixture, so (mistrustful of innovation) I put lime in half the mixture, and in fact the lime ones turned out really tasty, in fact I would almost go so far as to say better than the plain ones.
So, gosh, that's more cooking in a weekend than I did in the previous 3 months, probably. Inbetween all the cooking, on Saturday I managed to do a bit of a shift at Oxfam (though I am getting hideously slack about that, and in penance I have promised to get there early next Saturday, i.e. just before 9 a.m.). Then at lunchtime my parents came to visit, bringing soup, bread, and the remainder of my Christmas presents, including my long-awaited iSight, about which more when I have actually set it up etc etc.
Then after parents had left, O. and I headed into town with bags full of my unwanted books, intending to sell some to the Haunted Bookshop (which specialises in children's books) and give the rest to Amnesty. However in the event of it, due to my Hard Bargaining Skillz (aka complete confusion) I managed to sell the lot to the Haunted Bookshop for a grand total of £32. That works out at about a quid a book, but given that I got many of them for under a quid and some for free, I think it's not too bad. And, hell, it meant I didn't have to walk any further with a bagful of books on my back, which has got to be a good thing. Though we did eventually walk to the Amnesty shop anyway and even spend some money there, which assuaged my guilt over cheating them out of books.
In addition to the books I've sold, I've given away about 30 books through ucam.adverts.giveaway; for a couple of weeks now my desk at work has looked like a car boot sale, but it's finally getting under control. I was annoyed by one man who emailed immediately to claim a whole batch of books I was giving away, but then after about a dozen faffy emails over the space of a week and a half totally failed to come and collect the damn things ... offset against that frustration, though, is the satisfaction I felt when I was able to email the people who had mailed me after no-show guy to claim various books (which I'd said at the time were already gone) and tell them "actually this is available again, do you still want it?"
So over all I feel pounds lighter and a few pounds richer. Not quite enough pounds richer to cover the money I owe the Inland Revenue, but I have now actually completed my self-assessment form (with tons of practical help, translation of tax-speak, and moral support from sion_a). Okay, so I owe them more money than I can pay without exceeding my overdraft limit, but at least I know the worst now... right? I still have thousands of pounds of debts to pay off, I still haven't done half the things I'm supposed to have done, but right now I'm going to drink a bottle of badger beer, eat a coconut macaroon, and relax for a moment. Sufficient unto the day, etc.