Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Lentil Shepherdess

During a visit to Durham cathedral yesterday I decided to have lunch. I hate the lunchtime boredom of sandwiches, soup and baked potatoes. Can there be anything more truly revolting than a baked potato with tuna in cheap mayonnaise? The only thing a baked potato should come with is lashings of good butter and sea salt.
At the cathedral they were offering shepherdess pie and I thought that would be lovely, nice and hot, tasty, for such a cold day so I queued, sat down and began to eat.
To be fair, I should have asked how it differed from shepherd's pie. Shepherd's pie has minced beef. Shepherdess pie has ... lentils??  Oh my God.  The vegetables were cold, the pie with nothing without its meat.
There are some terrible eating places in Durham. I don't know why. Is it something to do with tradition or is it just that nobody complains?
Bhs store takes the biscuit for this if you will pardon the pun. This cafe has the best view in Durham but the food is appalling. I go for the view and the staff who are lovely but all I ever eat there is hot buttered toast.
For decent chains we have Ask and Zizzi's so you know what you're getting.
Vennels do wonderful cake and the staff are lovely there too.
The best place for Sunday roast or fish and chips is my local, The Garden House Hotel in North Road and the chef prides himself on his wonderful puddings.
In summer I go to the Cellar Door where I can sit by the river and watch the sun go down. The food is great, the staff too.
The cafes in Durham tend to be dark and in old buildings which they can't do much about. The cafe beside the Barker library, in a gorgeous building on Palace Green does sandwiches without butter. No, I have no idea why either.
We are now being urged to eat 'real food' and to ignore what we have been told about eating too much fat. I think the culprit is sugar so I try not to go too far with it. A balance is always good but most of all I will not eat food which is not good for me or tastes bad.
Chez Liz is the best eating place in town now, the wine is superb because I choose it, the food exactly what I want because there's only me and anyway I hate cooking for other people. I feel like I'm putting myself on the line somehow and it takes the pleasure from it. I feel like Mary, from Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library, who was the vicar's maid of all work, slogging away in the bloody vicarage while the vicar's wife sat on her arse. No wonder Mary overcooked or undercooked all the food.
At Chez Liz there are no complaints. Even last week when the second night of had been an excellent chicken curry was cooked to buggery in the microwave. The Aromatic Yellow Basmati rice was a kind of puke slop.
One of these days when I am rich I shall go and live at Matfen Hall where the food is the best. Would I get tired of it?  Oh, please, Lord, give me the chance!  In the meanwhile the dinner at Chez Liz is leek, lemon and white wine risotto and has to be better than the shepherdess I ate at the cathedral.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Shopaholic becomes Chefaholic

I should put a sign outside saying Chez Liz. Having shopped myself stupid for the last few weeks in a bid not to be alcoholic of the year I finally got bored. Things went a bit further this week. I decided to cook.
No big decision, the rest of you think, but ah ha, I haven't cooked since I started living alone which is at least ten years. I do throw meat and veg into the oven, with olive oil and bring out charred remains when I remember it's there. I do a good line in Cheese and Garlic Bread as a main course. I gave up on fish when I could smell it three days after it left the pan. The exception is soup. I do a very good carrot soup.
This week on the menu has been the most wonderful daube of beef. Wine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes and thick strips of orange peel. Can't you just smell it?  I actually went out of the house so that I could come back in again and enjoy the scent which wafted through the hall. Unfortunately my stomach, wondering what in hell I was doing, thought the daube too rich and I suffered the following day.
Then it was the best risotto I have ever tasted, leeks and white wine ( you see I do get the wine in, even if the alcohol has gone off it by the time I eat ), bay leaves ( the bay tree in the garden has had a hammering this week )and lemons. I adore lemons. It was sublime.
The day after this it was charred asparagus with lemon, basil and spaghetti.
Last night I excelled myself. Lemony chicken with Fresh Coriander. I hate coriander but my garden supplies curly parsley which I chopped very small. There was ginger made into a paste, garlic, chilli ( red since I had no green ) cayenne, cumin and turmeric. To go with it I had Aromatic Yellow Rice which boasted cinnamon and yes, you guessed it, more bay leaves.
In between all this I've been having rosemary bread with salads for lunch. Not ordinary salads, vine ripe tomatoes, avocado with lemon oil, yellow and orange peppers and king prawns.  I haven't had king prawns since Kitty died. She used to hide them under the beds like squirrels hide nuts.
Best of all I did have to go shopping. I needed one of those little collections of spoons which give you a quarter of a teaspoon, half a teaspoon etc. And I discovered that the lady who has the fruit and veg at the covered in market in Market Place, does a good line in herbs. I urge you all to buy your goods at this market. It's cheaper than anywhere else, the people there are lovely and the watch man is mending a watch of mine which hasn't gone for years.
The fruit and veg lady must go somewhere really good for her produce because it lasts and lasts. Of course it isn't very warm in the covered in market which possibly accounts for some of this but I have been buying bunches of snowdrops there, two for £1-50 which are locally grown. On top of that you get the chat, everybody there is so nice, it's a blissful way of shopping.
Today - deep breaths here - I am making spelt bread. I don't need to make dinner, there is enough left over from last night. I went to Sainsburys and bought a big loaf tin and a stainless steel mixing bowl so if you happen by the smell should be incredible.
The only problem I have is that I make awful coffee. I could hit the Guinness book of records for the coffee I have made which people merely looked at. So no smell of coffee.
Kind regards to Madhur Jaffrey and the lovely people at hamlyn books who wrote the mediterranean collection which I bought from my local library last week for one pound. My afternoons no longer exist under the spell of Escape From the Country - Freudian slip there - and Antiques Road Trip. My couch is awash with cookery books. Elizabeth David move over, here I come.