Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Chicken Dog

Two dogs enlivened our lives as children in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They were a cairn, called Bunty, who gave birth to Kennel Club pedigree puppies that we were loath to part with, and Ben. He was a black cocker spaniel.
My father, though badly wounded in the recently ended First World War, ran a chicken farm at Silchester, a walled Roman town in the south of England, positioned between Reading and Basingstoke on the Hampshire/Berkshire borders.
Ben was not only a much-loved house dog but a working dog, too – a chicken dog.
When my father wanted a bird for the oven or sale, he would herd chickens into a corner of their run, where they would squawk and flap, probably knowing that one of their number was to end up as food in the near future.
Having selected the required bird, my father would point it out to Ben with his finger – rather as a pointer dog would point with his nose. Ben would then slowly and quietly enter the mêlée and rest his paw on the selected bird, pinning it gently to the ground. Off would scamper the rest of the flock. My father would then gather up the desired chicken from beneath Ben’s paw.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hot Avocado and Tomato Salad

Having bought a quantity of avocados in the market and made a very successful soup with some of them, I noticed that a bowl of tasteless, out-of-season tomatoes were in the kitchen waiting to be used up. So this dish came about. And an excellent salad/hors d’oeuvre it is, too.


You will need:
Pepper and salt
Toasted breadcrumbs
Olive oil

Into a nice-looking ovenproof dish pour some vinegar. On it place sliced tomatoes. Dust with pepper and salt.
Now press at least two cloves of garlic over the tomatoes.
Take the flesh from an avocado, and dot small pieces of it over the tomatoes (you might need more than one avocado – depending on its size and the size of your dish.
Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top, and dribble olive oil over all – coating the breadcrumbs.
Shove the dish into a hot oven for half an hour – preferably when you are cooking the main course in it (for economy).
Up until the avocado bit you can prepare the tomato part well before wanted. But after dotting the just-opened avocado flesh over the tomatoes and completing the crumbs and oil addition, do not delay in putting this hot salad into the oven.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Avocado Soup

This soup came about after I had been shopping in Shepherd’s Bush market and found ten avocados for sale at £1. This being an unbelievably good bargain, in winter, I thought aloud, wondering if perhaps the thick-skinned avocados might have a touch of frost in them and be black inside. The helpful Indian stall-holder took out a large machete (the kind used for cutting through jungles) and with it sliced through an avocado to show me that they were in edible condition.
With the idea that the avocados might ripen at the same time and be too many to use, I decided right away to turn five of them into soup. The result was slightly yellow, creamy, and quite delicious. Moreover, it was a simple soup to make.


You will need:
Ripe avocados
White sauce (milk and water, butter, flour, stock cubes, pepper and salt)

Make a white sauce in the usual way by melting a good sized lump of butter in a saucepan, stirring in flour and, in this case, two chicken stock cubes. Add milk and water, whisking the result until quite smooth (being careful to dislodge thickened flour from the bottom angles). Cook the sauce slowly until it bubbles, stirring all the time.
Thin down the sauce with water and milk until it has formed soup consistency – possibly putting it into a larger saucepan. Now add the avocado flesh.
Press down on the avocado with a potato masher to break up the large pieces, and continue to whisk until the soup is smooth, yet still contains small avocado pieces. Test for seasoning.
Garnish the offerings with a little chopped coriander leaf – if you have any at hand.
(Coriander will keep for weeks if washed and sealed in a plastic container with a little damp kitchen paper beneath the stems. Keep the container in the vegetable storage part of the refrigerator.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Recipe: Beef and Brussels' sprout stew

I was making a winter beef stew and found some Brussels’ sprouts in the vegetable part of my refrigerator. They were there for no particular reason. So I used them in my stew. Now, Brussels’ sprouts are a vegetable that you either like or loathe. In this dish, those who like them will love them cooked this way, and those who don’t, will, I think, come around to liking them. But be warned. They hold in the heat in a strange way, so a burn in the mouth is possible when biting into one.


You will need:
Beef (shin, chuck or other)
Oil or fat of your choice
Pepper and salt
Brussels’ sprouts

In an iron casserole make a stew in the normal way by frying chopped onions and garlic in oil, or fat of your choice, until browning.
Throw in cubed beef, and cook until it changes colour.
Sprinkle over it some plain flour, and stir this in. Add pepper and salt.
Now add a layer of cleaned carrot pieces and a top layer of trimmed and washed Brussels’ sprouts.
Pour in stock, made with tea and a stock cube, to almost cover the contents.
Depending on the type of beef used (shin or chuck, say) cook slowly on top of the stove (or in the oven) for an hour for chuck, or two hours for tastier and cheaper shin. Keep an eye on the liquid level.
You might like to add a chilli or half of one.