Ruth Sullivan’s Food Tips December 2022
Yes, it’s that time of year again – can you believe it? Here’s a link to previous blog posts with several Christmas suggestions… (https://www.fifthsense.org.uk/recipes/) As I’ve said before, it’s really important to find one or two things that you will enjoy, even if the whole meal is tricky. So go to town on the trimmings! I’m spending Christmas with my Mum; we’ve decided to go rogue on Christmas Day and have roast beef, slow cooked in red wine with root vegetables tucked in around the side. I’ve persuaded her to make Yorkshire Toppers to go with it – lovely little mini-Yorkshire puddings that were always such a treat when growing up. And of course there will be roast tatties and green vegetables, with liberal amounts of mustard on the side.
I’ve just been working in Norway, which was rather wonderful, and after my contract finished my Mum, sister and I went on a Big Boat for two weeks which took us along the coastline up to the very northernmost tip of the continent. What an adventure! I thoroughly recommend it – such beautiful and truly stunning scenery. And we saw the Northern Lights! How very lucky we were.
Anyway, back to the main topic… At first we were slightly disconcerted at having to sit with other people at the dinner table (forced socialisation! – oh no! – we have to talk to others!) but soon conversation flowed and we all got on extremely well. The food, by the way, was amazing – even for me – and it was rare to have a meal which didn’t have taste and texture abounding. (This may have something to do with Norwegians’ love of salt. And oil. And jelly. There was a lot of jelly.) Most lunch buffets had lots of mashed potato with lashings of butter – yum. And there were many many servings of roasted vegetables. Healthiness and oiliness combined – heaven. They also seemed to like cabbage which was fantastic for me as it’s one of my favourites. The table talk soon turned to its ubiquitousness, with fairly extreme opinions on all sides; one of our table refused pointblank to eat it! Madness. I, on the other hand, used to be known as The Cabbage Kid at school as I would always finish off other schoolfriends’ helpings at lunchtime.
A consistently tasty way to cook cabbage is to slice it in uneven chunks and cook it with chopped onion and a generous dollop of butter in the bottom of a saucepan, with several twists of black pepper on top. It’s a good idea to add a few drops of water to make sure it doesn’t burn too much, although I like it a bit burned myself. One of our tablemates on the boat described his favourite way to cook it which I tried out the other evening and I can confirm it works really well: Chop up and fry some chorizo then, when the juice starts to run, add your chopped cabbage and continue to sauté. It’s really rather tasty – crunchy oily cabbage with a bit of a spicy tang. I could only find chorizo slices but I think it would be best to cut cubes from a whole sausage – that’s one for next time. I ate it with a Spicy Bean Surprise – the surprise being just how hot it was… Might need to go easy on the chilli next time. I’ve talked before about how useful a bean stew can be – so easy, so relatively cheap, and it really goes a long way. I just used an onion, a green pepper, a red chilli (hot hot heat!), mushrooms and cans of tomatoes, butter beans and black beans. It’s really just what leaps out from the shop shelves at the time, or whatever you might have in your cupboard. Add some Worcestershire sauce, mixed herbs and your own combination of seasonings and you’ve got a perfect bowl of warming goodness in about 45 minutes’ time.
Back to the boat (did I mention I’ve been to Norway?!) and an amazing dessert we had one evening which could have been created especially with us in mind; Pickled and Sweetened Rhubarb served with lemon sorbet. Oh my goodness but I thought it was lush! Do you remember eating raw rhubarb dipped into sugar as a child…? It was like a grown up version of that! The rhubarb was crunchy and juicy, with the vinegary tang and contrasting sweetness bursting and sparkling on the tongue. And it was perfectly complemented by the tart sorbet. It certainly wasn’t to everyone’s taste – I might even have been the only one to truly enjoy it at our table – but it was a winner with me. Here’s a link to a recipe which I know I’ll have to try: https://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/pickled-rhubarb/ (Just don’t eat the leaves!)
Happy Holidays all, keep warm and well fed. See you on the other side…