'For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.' - Job
'Fortunately I keep my feathers numbered for just such an emergency.' - Foghorn Leghorn
Towards the end of last week I began to hear, far off in the distance, the faint howl of the black dog. There were a few tell-tale signs of imminent disorder in the old brain-box, such as the return of fractured sleep, inchoate fears and unbidden memories.
Well fuck that, thought I. I decided that the strongest weapon in my much depleted armoury was keeping busy. And what better way to busy myself could there be than to clear out the freezer, prior to a much needed defrosting? None that involved so much cooking and eating, so a clear out it was. This mission soon extended to the fridge and thence to the cupboards as well.
Amongst the several items in the freezer were a stuffed lamb's heart and pizza dough - that took care of lunch and dinner on Friday. There were some plums in the fridge so I made a crumble. Also in the freezer was a pheasant - Sunday lunch.
There was some sobrasada leftover from the previous weekend's trip to Brockley Market, the last of a bunch of parsley, some crème fraîche and a punnet of blueberries. And in the cupboards there were the remnants of various packets of nuts and seeds. So, on Saturday, I made croquettes, on Sunday granola and on Monday rice pudding.
All that's left in the freezer now is a duck leg and packets of petit pois and artichoke hearts. I reckon there might be a casserole to be made out of those.
Anyway, for the present at least, the black dog can kiss my wrinkled, hairy nutsack. Here's some recipes:
I went recently, for the first time this century, to Greenwich. The Royal Borough of Greenwich, I should say. It was granted royal status a few weeks ago in recognition of the fact that it is one of the few places in the UK where the majority of residents listen to the afternoon play on Radio Four and also because its police sirens play 'The Lark Ascending' by Vaughan Williams. Only thirty minutes away from my manor via the 177 bus, but a different world.
My trip was prompted by an invitation from manager Robbyn Linden to visit The Cheeseboard (with, it's only proper to declare, a kind offer of some complimentary cheese).
In her email Robbyn wrote: 'People sometimes think that cheese is an unaffordable luxury item, but it really isn’t as long as you buy relatively small portions. You want to eat cheese as fresh as possible anyway, so little and often is what we encourage.'
This small shop proved to be a delight. Robbyn is absolutely passionate (and very knowledgeable) about the stuff. After tasting quite a variety of cheeses I chose the three small chunks shown above, costing £6.91. More than enough, with bread, a simple salad and some fruit, to provide a meal for two people. (It's worth mentioning, budget-wise, that cheeses such as the Fougerus, which has almost no rind to speak of, and the Brinkburn, which has very little, make for a more economical buy than other more rind-heavy cheeses.)
Back home I got to thinking - why not include a section on the site with a selection of three cheeses for every month of the year, costing no more than £7.50? I reckoned that such an outlay once a month falls within the 'skint' remit. So I asked Robbyn if she'd be up for providing detailed notes about the cheeses, and she's agreed. Though not chosen with this idea specifically in mind, these first three cheeses will serve as our (belated) January selection. I really liked all three, but particularly the Brinkburn - a stunner.
So now it's over to Robbyn:
I was intending to use spianata piccante for this pizza, keeping it Italian as it were, but my local deli didn't have any, so I went with a few slices of cured chorizo instead.
This 23cm (9") pizza cost £3.12. It would be £2.50 without the chorizo. That's for everything except the sugar and salt, the cost of which I couldn't be arsed to work out. A small takeaway pizza will cost you around £12.99. You can buy cheaper pizzas at the supermarket (if you're partial to cardboard) but neither option will come anywhere near the glorious taste of a home-made pizza.
For this one I used 400g of tipo '00' flour and 100g of polenta. But you can use all '00', or all strong bread flour, or 50% strong bread flour and 50% plain flour.
Mary Contini (of Valvona & Crolla fame) suggests a water temperature of 30C in the summer and 40C in the winter. If you haven't got a thermometer then two parts tap water to one part boiling water gets you there or thereabouts.
You can, of course, make the dough in a processor. I always used to do so but have just gone back to making it by hand. It's somehow more satisfying.
You want to whack your oven up to its highest setting, which in my case is (almost) 250C fan, and, ideally, leave a pizza stone in there for 20-30 minutes to heat up. If you haven't got a stone use a large baking tray instead.
I keep meaning to buy a pizza paddle for transferring the assembled pizza into the oven but haven't got around to it yet. So I use an upturned baking tray.
In my oven, a pizza usually takes about 8-9 minutes to bake.
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014