Archive for February, 2013

A few months ago ‘Austerity Monday’ was introduced in the flat. When I say ‘introduced’, I really mean ‘enforced’. Cook’s prerogative. An as self-appointed head cook, I thought it’d be a good idea.

Austerity Monday first happened when I’d treated myself to a weekend of boiling down pork bones into a stock. Steaming up the windows. Sending drips of condensation trickling down the white walls. And performing some sort of alchemy which turns Thames tap water into a delicious meaty jelly.

I couldn’t help but think I’d make my Great Grandma Grete proud. She was renowned for sitting at the kitchen table after Sunday lunch, clawing the last bit of meat off the chicken carcass before it was allowed to be put in the stockpot. Because that’s proper cooking. And what kind of world are we living in where chicken carcasses and pork bones are so frequently thrown away? A world where people have better things to do during the weekend than dance around a big stockpot with excitement, steaming their faces with meat-flavoured vapour?

So the first austerity Monday involved a bowl of pork-flavoured broth. My flatmates pretended to be disgusted, but gobbled down the ramen. And so began the tradition of daals, suspicious stews and leftovers, on what has become a competitively meagre, and joyfully miserable evening of the week.

There was, incidentally, a lapse in Austerity Monday when I went on holiday for a week in November. My flatmate sent me a photograph entitled ‘Austerity Monday is out of the window’. The fact he was so quick to introduce Frivolity Monday in my absence implies that the weekly frugal meal is mainly done to humour me. And not for the joy of a puritanical start to the week.

Anyway, as most of you will have noticed, today is Monday. So I thought I’d share tonight’s supper with you: jacket potato.

“Who blogs a jacket potato?” I hear you cry. Well, I suppose I do. Because a jacket potato is an enormously underrated supper. For a long time my boyfriend had a real prejudice against jacket potatoes. I think he saw them as ‘tea’ not ‘dinner’. And mixing the two is disorientating for him.

But on a Monday evening there’s something wonderful about a jacket potato. A super use of a potato you have lying around. And a super use for the gnarled piece of cheese that’s been festering in the fridge since 2012.

Now, Felicity Cloake – who I normally have nothing but love for – spent quite a lot of time deliberating the ‘Perfect Jacket Potato’, baking, brining and massaging oil into a single spud. But on a chilly Monday evening there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.

Stab a potato repeatedly with a fork, and stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes or so…

Those whose mothers told them never to stand too close to the microwave will probably know that it’s because they cook things from the inside out – unlike an oven which works outside in. This is good news if you’re trying to accelerate the cooking of a potato. But obviously not so good if you still secretly harbour a fear that the microwave waves are also cooking you from the inside out if you stand too close.

Anyway, switch the oven on to 180C while the potato is whirring away. And then move the hot potatoes from the microwave to the oven for 20-30 minutes to crisp up nicely.

Stuff with butter and cheese. And serve with lashings of coleslaw. (About 75p for 180g, so just allowed to slip past Austerity Monday stringent guidelines.)

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For one reason or another I’ve neglected my blog lately. And I’m ashamed.
I didn’t write a post about decorating Christmas cakes. I didn’t write about the haggis-making on Burns Night or my first attempt of a pasta machine. And I haven’t done a post on the salmon smoker we built on the balcony…

But I’ve missed posting. And most of all, I missing building up the rather convenient online resource of my favourite recipes. Don’t get me wrong – I love cookbooks. The messages in the front, the scribbles by the recipes and the cake splatters on the pages. But the problem is that the book I want is always on the bottom of a jenga-like pile which has grown out of my inability to commit to a bookshelf.

Aside from post-it noted pages in cookbooks, my other favourite recipes tend to be scrawled on scraps of paper. The kind which often end up in the dustbin. So, even though I’m of those annoying people who still preaches about the importance of “actually being able to hold a book”, and who dug in my heels against the internet until I really couldn’t avoid it any longer….I now appreciate how flipping great it is to be able to type “lemon tart” into the search bar on my blog, and come up with my favourite lemon tart recipe. No books falling on my head, no scrabbling about in the dustbin. Bliss!

So, in the name of preserving recipes, I’m going to launch the re-birth of this blog with a family recipe which I’m very glad that my granny wrote down.

Until very recently, I’d never met anybody who knew what a fruit knodel (ko-ner-dell) was. When I made one for a tutor at school, he told me that “it tasted ok, but it looked like roadkill.”It’s like a funny little family secret. A family oddity. Nobody else I know eats fruit in boiled pastry – and more fool them!

Mum cooks them on special occasions. Or when there’s a surplus of stoned fruit…which I suppose is a special occasion in many ways. Or when we have people who come for supper who are likely to be shocked by such quaint Eastern European ways – who will politely nibble on the quark pastry and sprinkle on a little more sugar as my brother wolfs down his fifth kondel.

Anyway, I digress. My current bout of knodel-making is inspired by the fact that in the past 26 years, I’d never met anybody who had come across this delicacy. That was until I met up with my great friend Karel Kaĉ, who had come over from Slovenia for a weekend in Derbyshire. As we bombed up the M1 on a Friday evening, conversation took a turn toward our favourite Eastern European recipes, and it transpired that Karel is a closet knodel-maker too. Interestingly, the pastry in Karel’s recipe uses potato instead of quark. And he only wraps half the fruit rather than the whole thing – increasing the ratio of pastry to fruit. And he tops the knodel with buttery breadcrumbs. A delicious-sounding addition!

I don’t have Karel’s recipe (but will let you know when/if I get my hands on it) **I now have! Click in the comments below to see Karal’s recipe.** But in the meantime, here’s my recipe. Now it’s online, there’s a far  bigger likelihood that it’ll evade the bin and tumbling bookstacks  long enough for me to pass onto a grandchild one day too!

Fruit Knodel Recipe
(Enough for 12 knodel)

250g quark (cream cheese)
250g plain flour
70g butter
2  egg yolks and 1 egg
Pinch of salt
12  stoned fruit – plums, apricots..etc…

Generous dusting of cinnamon
Teaspoon of sugar (per knodel)
Drizzle of melted butter

  1. Mix the quark and eggs in a bowl
  2. Sift in the flour, and add break in the softened butter
  3. Use a fork to bring it together into a ball
  4. Roll the elasticcy pastry into a sheet, and lie out the stoned fruit.
  5. Cut a grid around the fruit, so that each has a square of pastry for it to be wrapped in.
  6. Wrap each fruit up. Place on surface which has been lightly-dusted with flour.
  7. Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  8. Serve in a bowl – cut open, with cinnamon, sugar and a drizzle of hot melted butter over each knodel.

If you’ve ever cooked fruit knodel, or you know a varient on this recipe, then please do drop me a note below. I was told that the name means ‘stoned fruit wrapped in pastry’ (which I find hard to believe!!) But would love to know more…

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