Beef and Bacon Hotpot and Street Statues of Liverpool

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As many of you know, I am temporarily back in the UK until summer 2017.
Whilst here I have been fascinated by the amount of television airtime given over to cookery programmes (not that I am complaining as I love anything to do with cooking and food – especially when it is linked to travel as many of them are)
A lot of them have taken up the stance of promoting home cooking (again something which I am all for) and particularly using ‘leftovers’. Now this, as many of you also know, is a subject very close to my heart and I am often ‘making something out of nothing’, but now every celebrity chef is banging on about it as if he / she has invented the wheel…….
So my next four posts are going to involve leftover ingredients that I had in my fridge over the weekend.
I usually tie in a little cultural feature, so, taking advantage of what my lovely ‘birth city’ has to offer, here is a little look around some of the statues, celebrating Liverpool life………

These two iconic figures, the sadly recently passed away ‘Cilla Black’ (born Pricilla White), Liverpool’s favourite daughter, who began working as a cloakroom attendant in the famous ‘Cavern Club’ on Mathew street, where she was discovered by the Beatles and shot to stardom with her powerful voice belting out such songs as ‘Anyone who had a heart’ and ‘You’re my World’ amongst many, many others; and the tragically taken from us too soon ‘John Lennon’ Liverpool’s favourite son, who has the city’s international airport named after him.
Another interesting feature of Mathew street is the Cavern’s ‘Wall of Fame’, where the names of all the acts who have performed there over the years are represented by a brick.

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Quite a few famous names dotted about in there, many would have been before they were actually famous

The Cavern club links in nicely with my ‘Taste of Two Cities’ theme as the idea for the club, and indeed it’s very name, came directly from the founder, Alan Sytner, visiting ‘Le Caveau de la Huchette’ a jazz club in the cellar of a former fruit warehouse in’my home town for the last nine years’, Paris, and he opened the Liverpool equivalent as a jazz club in 1957.
I am too young to have been part of the Cavern scene, but the site was turned into ‘The Revolution’ in the mid seventies, then became ‘Eric’s’ in the late seventies / early eighties, which gave rise to the ‘punk rock’ era in the city, a scene that I was very much part of, but that’s another story………

Mathew street is still a hub of activity in the city and I was amused to see tourists and natives queueing in an orderly manner to have their photos taken with ‘Out Cilla’

No mention of Liverpool’s street statues would be complete without a mention of the ‘Fab Four’ gracing the Pier Head’ waterfront, but I couldn’t manage to get a photo without a tourist making up a fab fifth member…………

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A little lesser known one though is that of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from the song of the same name, tucked away on a bench on Stanley street………‘All the lonely people, where do they all come from. All the lonely people, where do they all belong’ has a sad resonance today walking around the city and seeing the amount of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets and another sad similarity with Paris.

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Another interesting fact that I discovered yesterday, is that this statue is actually singer / performer and made by the Tommy Steel for the princely fee of 3p – plenty of ‘pub quiz’ trivia to keep you going in this post and I hope it has inspired some of you to come and see these statues for yourselves…..

Now, back to the recipe………

Ingredients

½ a packet of leftover bacon Lardons from a previous ‘Beouf Bourgignon’

Some ‘scraps’ of fillet steak that were too small to put on the raclette

½ a leftover Red Onion, finely chopped

½ 1 left over Red pepper, finely cubed

1 small Carrot (I always have a good supply of carrots on ‘stand-by’ to make soup or ‘carrot rapé’ or just throw in a casserole or veggie curry), finely cubed

½ a left over Celery stick, finely sliced

1 clove Garlic, crushed

A little left over fresh Chilli, finely chopped

4 or 5 left over Chestnut mushrooms, quartered

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

A splash of Red wine vinegar

½ pint of Beef stock

A good pinch of Mustard seeds

4 small left over potatoes, finely sliced

Method

Sauté the lardons in their own fat until beginning to brown

Add the red onion, carrot, celery and pepper a little at a time so not to create steam and continue to sauté Add the garlic, chilli, steak and mushrooms and sauté until beef and mushrooms begin to brown Add the mustard seeds, salt and pepper

Add the red wine vinegar and beef stock

Pour into a casserole dish and top with the finely sliced potatoes and bake at 200 degrees / gas mark 6 for 45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and crisp

I served with some (left over) steamed Kale, but I think some warm crusty bread would go very well with this dish, if you were of a carb eating nature

So get into your kitchens and get creative with your leftovers……..

 

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Another City Statue, ‘Case History’ on ‘Hope street, by John King, with the names on the labels belonging to many of the streets illustrious names and organisations

 

 

 

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PUMPKIN CURRY AND THE CATACOMBS

In response to a request, here is my popular post on The Catacombs of Paris – plus a nice little curry for these cold winter days…..

A Taste of two Cities

Chick pea curry Perfect Halloween supper!

Halloween is approaching and soon we are going to be flooded with recipes for pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie, so I thought that I would get in early with a pumpkin curry – well actually it is ‘Butternut squash and chickpea curry’, but a pumpkin would do just as well.

Halloween conjures up images of witches and ghouls, (though in France ‘Toussaint’s’ is a little different and I will talk about this closer to the time) so what better place to go ghost hunting than in the Paris Catacombs………….

The Catacombs, or to give them their official name ‘The Municipal Ossuary’ date back to the end of the 18th century, when the ‘Cemetery of the Innocents’ near the present day ‘Les Halles’, became overcrowded (not surprising as it had been in existence for around 1,000 years!) and a health hazard.
All burials…

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Traditional Christmas Cake

By popular demand!

A Taste of two Cities

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As it is time to start thinking about what you have in your store cupboards in preparation for making a Christmas cake, here by popular demand, here is my traditional British Christmas cake recipe reposted from last year for those of you who missed it and the many of you who have contacted me asking me to post it again…..
There are no hard and fast rules when making a ‘traditional’ British Christmas cake, some use treacle, others syrup, some dark soft brown sugar and others light, some add ground almonds or walnuts and some use glacé cherries and candied peel.
I prefer a lighter fruitier, less sweet cake, so I do not include syrup or treacle, or glacé cherries or candy peel, and as my daughter is allergic to almonds I leave them out also, and only put marzipan on the top of the cake, so it is easier for…

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A Big Impact

More,words of wisdom from a very old head on ypung shoulders. Loving this blog

The Bible in a Year

We don’t always realise the impact that we can have on others. Sometimes we can leave a lasting impression on someone for all the right reasons, and sometimes, unfortunately, for the wrong.

As I have delved into Exodus, the stories in the Old Testament again have been pieced together. I feel ignorant for not realising the chains and links between the stories, and only knowing the single tales on their own. They are all linked, of course they are!
This piecing together reminds me of when I first moved to Liverpool from North Wales. I knew pockets of areas such as town, the airport, Sefton Park, but I did not know the linking roads to get me from one to another without travelling home and touching base in the middle.
Liverpool has now linked itself up and I know how to get from A to B, and also when to…

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Big Shoes to Fill…

This is a wonderful new blog that I have begun following, check it out

The Bible in a Year

Big shoes to fill?

Taking on a new position at work is difficult. Taking on someone else’s position who has been doing that job for 15 years is even more difficult.

I like to think of myself as a team player but I am also a leader. Having worked freelance and essentially working on my own, and my own terms, for the past 5 years to be put into someone else’s set job has been an interesting experience. I have discovered a lot about myself, or reaffirmed things at least!
I don’t like being told what to do, or even worse being told how someone else used to do what I am being told to do.

Which got me thinking about the phrase ‘big shoes to fill,’ which is a phrase which has been said to me this week. That I had big shoes to fill. Interesting.

Sorry, this is…

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QUIRCA d’ORCA AND FRESH PESTO PASTA WITH GREEN BEANS AND POTATO

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To bring my little Italian detour sadly to an end. I hesitate before revealing the name of this veritable little ‘Brigadoon’ of a village…..the added bonus being the journey to get there took us through some of the most stunning countryside in Tuscany

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My daughter, Kate, bought us a book about the loveliest ‘secret’ villages in Tuscany for Christmas last year and it is in this book that I stumbled across ‘Quirca d’Orca’ I must add that I am not too worried that I am going to introduce it mass tourism, as it took us three attempts to actually find it and that was with the GPS. It obviously evaded others also, as we spent about four hours in this lovely little hamlet, and only saw two other non residents’  (an American couple)

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The almost hidden entrance to the village

 

Sleepy little back streets, a plethora of medieval buildings (many 12th and 13th century) an Italian garden and ancient ruins. Add to this some gorgeous little restaurants and very friendly locals and you have the recipe for a perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon.

 

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We ate in one of these little restaurants that boasted pasta made from its own organic flour from its own mill, and our very simple pasta dish took a full 25 minutes to prepare, and we, being French (well one of us French and the other indoctrinated!)  used to eating lunch MUCH earlier than the Italians, were the first to arrive.

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Our table for two!

 

I tried to emulate the dish back at the apartment (by using ‘fresh’ pasta from the local supermarket (I know this is a contradiction of terms…..)

The results were very good, but not in the same league………But here goes………

Ingredients
Serves 2

6 (3 if serving as a starter) ‘Fresh’ lasagne divided into four (place each sheet long size across the top and cut in half and half again)

A handful of fresh green beans

1 medium (small) waxy potato

1 tablespoon of fresh pesto (see below)

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil leaves and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to garnish

Method

Cook the potato whole in boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until just cooked, remove from pan and leave to cool a little while cooking the pasta and green beans.

Cook the pasta and green beans together in boiling salted water for around 7 minutes until ‘al dente’, drain and separate the pasta from the beans and toss the pasta in the fresh pesto (you can of course use shop bought, but it is so simple to make your own, trust me!) mixed with half of the olive oil to ‘loosen’ the mixture a little.

Slice the cooled potato and gently toss this along with the green beans into the pasta.

Drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Italy on a plate!

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For the pesto

50 gm of pine nuts

50 gm of freshly grated parmesan cheese

A large bunch of fresh basil

1 large clove of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for storage

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

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Method

Lightly toast the pine nuts and leave to cool

Put the cooled pine nuts, parmesan and basil in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds son the slowest speed

Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency

Add a little salt and pepper to taste

What you do not use, can be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar, covered in a little extra oil and kept up to two weeks. To make a lighter sauce for pasta, the pesto can be mixed with crème fraiche, to give a milder flavour and a more fluid consistency.

 

ORVIETO AND TIANS DE LEGUMES

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A quick note to any new followers who may be confused by my little sojourn into Italy. This is an annual event that adds a little extra twist to my regular ‘Franglais’ posts, but please come on the little detour with me, especially if you love Tuscany as much as I do…

Orvieto was the surprise little gem that we ‘discovered’ when we ventured south over the border into Umbria. I was struck by how dramatically the countryside differed from the sparse, yellow ochre rolling hills, and ice-cream cone poplars of Tuscany, to a greener, lusher landscape of vineyards, sunflowers and olive groves, and less angular trees.

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Gorgeous medieval Orvieto!

 

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Tourists were thin on the ground and we only saw one very small group of Americans (about 6-8) with a private Italian guide and another very small group of Japanese (less than 20) in and around the cathedral.

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We almost had the place to ourselves!

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The cathedral is an impressive building with distinctive grey and white striped brick sides and back and an intricate front façade of mosaics, bass reliefs, spires and sculptures, bronze doors and a stained glass window, but it is the interior that blows you away. Notably the ‘Cappella Nova’. A huge 15th century ceiling fresco, which, in my opinion, rivals the Sistine Chapel, depicting scenes from the Book of Revelation (the coming of and reign of the Antichrist, and the Judgement) My photos just do not do it justice.

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Having less tourists there was a very relaxed, unhurried, friendly and welcoming atmosphere of a small village, while some lovely buildings to rival larger towns.

Two unimpressed locals!

When I asked Monsieur le Frog which had been his favourite day, rather than give his usual Gallic shrug and say ‘Je ne sais pas’ he instantly said ‘maybe’ Oriveto……….he is French after all………

I chose Tians de Legumes to team with Orvieto as, even though it is a French Provincal dish, I did make it with the tomatoes, courgettes and aubergine from the garden at Cetona, and I think that the rustic red appearance of the dish compliments the town (I am the woman who matched ‘chick pea curry’ with the ‘Paris Catacombs’ as I thought the chick peas resembled the skulls!)

A Tian is traditionally made with ‘rondelles’ of tomato, courgette and aubergine stacked against each other (upright), but as I was only making a very small one for 2 people and did not have my usual earthenware dish, I stacked my vegetables flat side up as in a hotpot. As it is ‘country food’ I usually use whatever I have to hand, and on this occasion I also used a potato. I have also seen recipes using red peppers.

Ingredients Serves 2 with some left over for lunch the next day! 1 medium aubergine1/4” thickness

1 large courgette (If you can get yellow courgettes rather than green ones, these are much nicer in my opinion) slied ¼” thickness

1 medium waxy potato sliced ¼” thickness

2 large beef tomatoes sliced ¼” thickness

1 small shallot

3 cloves of garlic

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, teaspoon of dried thyme

Olive oil

Parmesan cheese or mozzarella (optional)

Method

Prepare the dish by rubbing it with butter and garlic and sprinkle with the finely chopped shallot

Traditionally arrange the vegetables standing upright in rows if using a lasagne dish or circles if using a round dish (as explained mine is a break from tradition as I was cooking it in my little Italian kitchen, so this is the Lindy’s ‘Franco / Italian’ version!)

Interspace the vegetables with some fine slices of garlic (between the potato and aubergine is a good place)

Sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan (or equivalent) cheese, cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven for around one and a half hours until all the vegetables are soft

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Remove the foil for 10-15 minutes and turn up the heat a little to slightly brown the top (mine was browned a little too much – but I was not used to using a gas oven)

Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle. Alternatively this is also delicious cold as a relish or salad.

Serve as an accompaniment to meat (goes really well with chicken) or serve as a veggie starter.

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This dish is even better the next day and will keep for two days in the refrigerator.