Cold brew, butter infused coffee

Last night as I was inputting my food data into Myfitnesspal my eye was drawn by a forum post about butter coffee.

I like butter, I thought, I like coffee, maybe this is for me.

From the details, it turns out you put a good wodge of unsalted, grass-fed butter in a hot black coffee and run it through the blender to emulsify it and stop getting a thick layer of melted butter on top of normal coffee.

The idea is apparently this is a low-carb diet friendly breakfast that helps you feel full for most of the day. It is mainly hawked in the US by someone promoting “bulletproof coffee” and most of the other links about it seem to link back to him.

Not even sure whether butter in the UK is “grass fed” or not and only had salted butter in the fridge, so didn’t make a rush on this idea. I also have a few concerns about putting butter in the blender as that looks much harder to clean out than the smoothies it usually gets used for.

However, whilst reading around on butter coffee I also hit on a few links for cold brew coffee, and that looked both more promising and possible to make with everything I already had in the house at 10pm.

There were lots of complicated things you could use – including this beautiful but expensive and house-filling lab kit and Cory Doctorow’s combo of bucket and tights – but reading a bit through the comments, the easiest thing to do was put the coffee in the camping cafetière in the fridge overnight. It took a while to find a sensible amount of metric quantities – the American sites mostly have quarts and pounds – but in the end I put 75g of coffee with 500mls of water and left it going.

This morning after a bit of a stir, so the grounds didn’t get caught on the mesh, I pushed the plunger and poured, then diluted the mix with hot water for my first three cups of coffee today. The first one slightly less than 1:1, the next one slightly more, the third even more.

The flavour – well, nothing particularly special. I am getting a bit more of a caffeine rush, eventually.

All in all, the faff, the extra use of coffee, which I already spend too much money on, and the mess of using a French press instead of a filter machine, mean this isn’t something I’m in a hurry to repeat.

Perhaps the butter next week…

Two weeks’ food

Meal plans in retrospect, once they become meal histories.

There’s been some casual plans and some moving around and slightly more takeaway than planned.

Last week

Sunday & Monday – spag bol

Tuesday – sausages from the freezer, with frozen corn on the cob and fresh steamed carrots that barely cooked at all. It turns out frozen corn is too heavy for the pan top steamer. We have several packs of sausages in the freezer, I discovered, because of BOGOFs in the past. This is served with gravy made with Bisto poured over fried onions, and an apple and a bunch of mushrooms that have been pushed through a grater. When the first cook has happened, pour in a glass of red wine and reduce before finally adding in the Bisto.

Wednesday – leftover sausage pasta

Thursday was Glamorgan burgers. I thought after two days of sausage related food, we needed to shape the traditional Welsh vegetarian dish slightly differently.

Thursday was before a GP appointment for my annual drug review. I’ve been on lansoprazole since 1995, back when I was 75kg, and this year, apparently, there’s been new research to show that people on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) need to be careful of food hygiene, as, with less stomach acid we are more susceptible to “bowel infections” (is that food poisoning?) and also we need to take care about bone density. This means eating a lot of calcium and taking some sort of explosive exercise – not just walking, but that’s good, but also something that involves jumping. In effect, my GP told me to eat more cheese. (Whilst also being careful not to take on too many calories.)

Friday we had takeaway, phoning Dominos.

Saturday I don’t remember and Sunday I made soup from the veg box – potatoes, leeks, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes. That went for lunches too. Mostly this term I’ve been having tinned soup for lunch as a low calorie, low carb plan that can sit in the cupboard for weeks until I need it.

Monday we made this baked potato and leek dish again – it’s become a firm favourite since we first made it.

Tuesday – Greek salad. More cheese! But some rather nasty bullet hard unseasonal Spanish tomatoes.

Wednesday – came home from the gym via the chippy.

Thursday – I don’t remember, but Friday I made a rather nice chicken tikka with a tiny bit of rice and bulked out with some extra veg – onions, mushrooms and peppers.

Pudding club: sticky toffee pudding

I last made this some years ago, when Simon Hopkinson’s cookery programme was on TV. But it seems I didn’t write about it at the time, so here’s a quick post to put things right.

I made it exactly as per this BBC recipe.

It’s a truly delicious recipe – as you’d expect for something that includes over a pint of cream and most of a block of butter, along with a variety of interesting types of sugar, one of which I’d never used till the recipe sent me hunting for it.

The recipe says “serves 4″ but even someone as sceptical of serving sizes as I am would think this recipe comfortably feeds 6.

Sticky toffee pudding for tomorrow's pudding club. Two toffee sauces for assembly.

The other reason this one sticks in the mind is that two years ago when I made it and photographed it and put it on Flickr, some wazzocky company took me to task for using the phrase “pudding club” in the description because they thought they owned it. Fools!

Things I stock up on in French supermarkets

As a frequent traveller to French France there are a bunch of things I try and buy a bunch every time I’m over there.

Our recent school trip had the super wheeze of stopping off in a hypermarket instead of using motorway services, which was a really effective way of exposing the students to an opportunity to use their transactional French, and just have a glimpse of every day French life.

And there was also a chance for teachers to shop.

Some things I always, or nearly always buy in French shops:

Coffee filters. So much cheaper in France than England!

Olive oil. Ditto.

Bonne maman jam. A luxury brand in England, but an every day one in France, so it’s cheaper over there. I have very pedestrian tastes, so I pretty much only buy fraise, and sometimes gelée de mûres, but there is a huge range of fruits available too. P is rather partial to châtaigne – chestnuts – which comes in a jar with a brown gingham top.

Speculoos spread. We found this for the first time last year, but it has since become available in English supermarkets too. See also Dan Lepard’s recipe made with English mixed spice.

Carambars. This is a very recent addition to my lexicon, influenced by Dom’s MFL blog. Delicious sweets, each one with a truly corny French joke on. You can also make them into a tarte. I’m afraid I bought four bags – two fruit flavour, one original, and one pâté de nougat, and I have just sat for days troughing them. I don’t understand all the jokes – the ones based on puns on names of French sportspeople are especially difficult – but it’s fun to see what I do get. If there are any left I could use them as rewards in lessons, or use them with this reading comp resource and this youtube advert:

Classroom tat. The last few years I have a quick look to see if there’s anything I can use for teaching. One of our “ofsted ready” preparations is about use of authentic materials, so things like calendars, maps, exercise books, stationery, etc call all help with that. The last few years, there has been a real trend for American 50s chic amongst the tat in French supermarkets, which has been a bit of a pain. I’m still on the look out for a large French / German perpetual calendar I could use on the board, but ultimately I think I’m just going to have to make one.

Moving on to matters more alcoholic and less suited to school trips…

Pastis. Available in England. A nice refreshing aniseed summer drink with ice and water that goes cloudy when you dilute it. It’s also a super ingredient for cooking fennel as many ways of cooking it lose its gentle aniseed flavour.

Crème de…. Crème de cassis is a blackcurrant liqueur, a little like alcoholic ribena. It’s used with champagne to make a kir royal, or white wine to make a kir. It’s a similar idea to flavoured syrups in American coffees. It makes a lovely simple cocktail, takes the edge of any slightly nasty white wine, and since it’s a liqueur served in a glass of wine, is pretty effective at taking the edge of you too. Crème de cassis is widely available in the UK, but (sing it with me) much cheaper in France. Much more interestingly, though, are the wider varieties of crème de… that you can use in the same way. Pêche is an old favourite, as is framboise, but this time to mix things up a bit I’ve come home with bottles of crème de pamplemousse rose and crème de cérise. One of my favourite drinks of late has been a gin-and-tonic-and-pink-grapefruit-juice, so pink grapefruit is a flavour I use a lot.

Meal plan nowish

Ouf, I don’t know where the time goes.

(I do, I know exactly where it goes. 12 hour days of school work, and every waking minute worrying that the school work is not good enough is where it goes.)

Anyway, since I last allowed me fingers to fly over the keys of the blog, we now have a veg box arriving, the first last Wednesday.

Astoundingly, it’s around six years since we last had a regular veg box, and that was not a universally positive experience.

Still, on verra. After all, I’m massively less fussy than I… no wait.

This week’s offering from Riverford was – with one exception – all perfectly normal stuff. Carrots, onions, mushrooms. Apples, bananas (not as many as I would like) and oranges, which we don’t really eat but I can happily juice. A salad bag, some celery. And the only slightly outré offering – a head of kale. I can cope with these things. I could cope better if we weren’t already quite well stocked with veggies, but no matter.

We’ve been living a little from the freezer anyway, and will continue to do so this week, but here’s what it vaguely looks like:

(drawing a veil over two nights of takeaway)

Last Friday was leftover Thai pork patties.

Saturday was a visit to friends – they fed us lovely onion tartlets and a leg of lamb, and I made Raymond Blanc’s pineapple sorbet and Nigella’s Nutella panna cotta.

Nigella 's Nutella panna cotta

As written, the recipe needs more gelatin as the they did not quite set enough.

Sunday was the first real foray into the veg box – kale and potato cakes topped with grilled cheese and a celery salad with a mustard vinaigrette dressing. The potato cakes were made plainer than the recipe with no real spice at all, and were still good homely fare. The cheese helped no end.

Tomorrow, the plan is bangers and mash with onion gravy and the rest of the kale.

Tuesday, a small bag of pork mince from the freezer will become pineapple rice a recipe which introduced me to toasted sesame oil, a miracle flavour ingredient which does wonderful things to salad dressings and lifts the entire recipe up.

Wednesday is that busy night again, straight from school to yoga, and if we have the strength of mind not to come home via the chippy again, we shall have hummus and crudités and the remains of the veg box.

Thursday is the last day planned. Last time we had veggie falafel burgers the recipe made an absolute ton, so we shall be defrosting and frying the remains of that and eating it with pitta bread.

Meal plan w/c 17 Nov

A wish expressed by P for more traditional fayre. Last week he cooked an amazing almost veggie pie (bacon doesn’t count, right?) including making the pastry and having the pastry go under the pie as well as over it, which I would never do! He also found a tasting menu deal at Browns for Friday night, but those were this week’s food highlights. A lot on at work for me and a hectic social life for him meant a three-day takeaway binge in the middle of the week. Miraculously, I haven’t got too much heavier.

So this week, back on the wagon.

Sunday – Shepherd’s pie

Can you get more traditional than this? No need for a recipe, really, is there? A half-kilo box of lamb mince will be bought, and half will be for this meal, and half frozen for Friday’s.

Monday – mustard chicken thighs

OK, day two, and ahem, the trad theme is gone already. Something a little like the link, but there’s lots of things in there I don’t like so a little variation. I will cook extra chicken so that the following day…

Tuesday – Nigel Slater’s leftover chinese chicken wrap

These have become a bit of a staple. Chinese 5 Spice is weirdly hard to find it. Sainsbury’s don’t seem to sell it.

Wednesday – leek and herb baked potatoes

A late night meeting in school means yoga night is displaced, so something oven-timery will have to be done. For a change it won’t be beans, but something a little like this from Good Food. Leeks are seasonal right now, eh? (no) (double check. Ooh, maybe they are!)

I might also add a jar of sliced olives to this.

Thursday – veggie burger wraps

There will be leftover lettuce from Tuesday, so on Thursday I will stuff it with veggie burger mix made from a festering out-of-date carton of chickpeas in the store cupboard. I don’t actually like pulses and don’t know why I bought the chick peas or butter beans but they have got to be et, so I will blend them with onions and half a jar of roasted red peppers, shallow fry them and serve them with lettuce, tinned bean sprouts and chilli sauce.

Friday – cheese stuffed meatballs

A new recipe from Recipe Rifle that just has to be tried. I mean even the name of it is saying “try me, try me!”

Meal plan w/c 3 Nov

A break from meal planning, or at least blogging about it, with half term and visiting family and giving up on cooking, and not eating properly.

Term resumes on Monday and so we must draw ourselves together and pretend we have some sort of order, discipline and professionalism, and resume planning what we eat rather than cobbling together leftovers and phoning for pizza.

Sunday - Thai pork patties

An old favourite I learned about from Recipe Rifle, which I started to read because she’s married to Giles Coren and carried on because the recipes are good. I bought the book
this recipe comes from, read it cover to cover, and didn’t find anything else in it that grabbed me. Maybe I should reread it and see what I missed.

I shall probably buy 500 grams of pork mince and use half of it and freeze the rest to be pineapple rice at some point in the future.

Monday – baked potatoes and sausages, rice pudding

We have a huge glut of milk at the moment, because I forgot to cancel the usual order while I was away. The rice pudding will use up some of it. The oven can cook three things at once and it will start on a timer while I am at work. When the potatoes are half done, I shall get home and add the sausages and rice pudding in.

Tuesday – baked eggs

As chicken owners we have occasional egg gluts and we really don’t eat as many eggs as we produce. Baked eggs makes a substantial meal out of them. Fry bacon, onion, and other veg until they are soft and put them in ramekins with tomato purée, slightly beat enough eggs (four for two people for us usually) to cover and pour over. Grate parmesan on top and bake in a normal oven until the egg is solid and the tops are golden.

Delicious, but such a pain to wash up afterwards.

Wednesday hummus and crudites

We ate this out of desperation the other week when we were under the cosh, and it turned out to be simple and delicious and healthy, so lets do it more often. Wednesday is beginner yoga night at The Yoga Place which entails changing into my PE kit before I leave school and then heading straight to the yoga place, then home, starving, v v late.

Thursday – leftover sausage pasta

Will cook extra on Monday and then use up the rest with pasta and tomatoes and wine.

Friday – Faggots.

A freezer special. Maybe this will be frozen baking fish instead.

Meal plan w/c 14 October

So, last week nearly went to plan, apart from our anniversary night when a choice was made about whether to spend 40 minutes waiting for sausages to roast or waiting for the guy from Dominos to ring the bell. We phoned so late the pizzas were with us in way less than the time it would have taken to cook sausages.

I really need to stop ordering such large pizzas as there were slices in the fridge bumping up the calorie count for days.

Mondayroasted pepper and caramelised onion wholewheat penne.

We’ll have half a jar of roasted peppers left over and some time on Sunday to oven caramelise some onions so this should make an easy veggie start to the week.

Tuesday – Beans and cheese baked potatoes.

It’s going to be one of those weeks with next to no time to do anything. Gonna have to rely on getting the timer on the oven to do the work and keep it really simple.

Wednesday – cold cuts, hummus and crudités

Yup, that kind of a week. Hot meals at school (must remember to take in cash to top up my fingerprint account) picnic food in the evening.

Thursday – frozen fish parcels

I don’t even think there’s a night this week I can have a shopping delivery so I’m going to have to spend some of Sunday battling the crowds in the supermarket. So one of those meals from the freezer you can just bang in the oven.

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – bacon joint

Finally by Friday there may be some time to catch up in the kitchen. I love the small bacon joints, shrink wrapped, long life, and can be forgotten about in the oven while you get on with the rest of the stuff. They last two people two or three days, so it will do a night of bacon joint and freezer veg, perhaps a night of ham egg and chips and there may still be some fab chunks for a third night of spaghetti carbonara to help us gear up for the final gruelling week before half term.

Meal plan for w/c 7 October

Monday – we’ll be having the Mackerel potato salad held over from Friday when I was unexpectedly home alone. I always struggle more to eat healthily by myself.

Tuesday – a supermarket stir fry vegetable pack with a ready made sauce.

Wednesday – sausages with onion gravy and frozen veg

Thursdayleftover sausage pasta – something like the online recipe but I usually do it with red wine, making it heavy on the veg and very light on the pasta – a handful of pasta for the two of us.

Fridayroasted mushroom tart – something a little like this one from the blog Manda gave me the link for last week.

On Saturday we are going to Clarkies Supperclub – hit the link for the menu. I’m currently thinking salmon, venison, pear, but I could just as well manage duck, pork, apple… We have to be a little careful as there have been too many nights with the Clarkies where we are too piggy, and massively overeat, and end up barely able to move.

Tonight – French Living.

Meal plans for two weeks

So, yes, meal plans help you spend less in the supermarket, in theory, and eat better, because you have something in the fridge for tonight that you have planned to eat and fits with your diet goals. You don’t have to plan something fancy every night and you need to be mindful of how tired you will be any given night.

I have until recently been in a cycle of shopping on Sunday mornings after ringing, but supermarkets are crazy busy on Sundays, so this week I am trying to be organised far enough ahead

Last week’s and this week’s are both pretty multicultural, taking advantage of autumn to use the timer on the oven to have food ready for when I come home.

Monday 23rd Sep – Chicken chasseur -a chicken, bacon, mushroom and tomato stew – made with four chicken legs so there was two nights’ food.

Tuesday - Chicken chasseur

Wednesday - Greek salad

Thursday - Pan fried pork steaks with apples, onions, carrots and peppers, with a crème fraîche and wholegrain mustard sauce

Friday - Mr Brain’s frozen faggots

Saturday and Sunday – Stifado – a Greek beef and tomato stew spiced with cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves, but in our case, no garlic. Based a little on Jamie Oliver’s recipe, it’s in the oven right now, so I shall be interested to see how it comes out, given that he doesn’t give a stock cube as an ingredient.

My parameters for a week’s food are currently: low carb main meals every night. Next to no bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. I have recently fallen far short of my aspiration to have two meat free main meals each week, and only manage it by substituting fish next week, as you will see. Failing on the carbs, too.

Monday 30th September – tbc

Tuesday - lamb tagine. Trying to prove wrong the online comment I read that people who buy tagine dishes only ever use them once. This will be the second time. I shall be rather more circumspect with the ras el hanout this time.

Wednesday - pineapple rice

Thursday - salade niçoise

Friday - smoked mackerel potato salad – a version of a recipe where the smoked mackerel is crumbled with mayonnaise and wholegrain mustard, and spinach is cooked by lining a colander with it, and pouring over the boiling potato water. Except that I will probably be using frozen spinach and this blates won’t work with that.

Well, that at least is what is in my Google diary shared with P so we both know what is planned. Whether I shall crumble and phone for pizza again is another matter.