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Gastronomy at 🍽️

I don't actively dislike cooking. Whereas some (the French?) live to eat, I just eat to live (an outcome I still consider worth at least a token effort). It's merely that other matters attract my interest more strongly. To a degree, I enjoy the challenges of planning the next meal (frequently with the assistance of the technical manual noted below). The situation is slightly more complicated, however ...

For medical reasons, I'm on a low-salt diet. This is a near impossibility if take-aways, canned and ready meals are on the menu. With few exceptions, the manufacturers of those victuals add only token amounts of food to the concentrated brine masquerading as 'soup', 'cheese dip', 'passata' or whatever. If salt scares you then have soy sauce as an ingredient only with your last meal as a condemned man. You are then unlikely to survive until your execution. Also, now that all processed food has to include salt,[1] it has become boring. Can't we do anything but savoury?

Again, in a belated attempt to improve my health, the full English fry-ups of pre-retirement life have been expunged. Although I have not 'gone veggie', meat intake is a fraction of its former level. This is not to say that breakfasts are no longer a thing for me. Far from it. They are now, basically, my only meal.[2] OTOH, I have time now to prepare and eat breakfasts that can last my whole day. So, gastronomically, I am above simple bowls of cornflakes but below roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. For example, Fridays are a serving of kedgeree that would likely satisfy two diners at the Savoy. Lest you suppose that fine dining is the order of my day then I put forward Wednesday's Pot Noodle: a dish infrequently included on the menu at the aforementioned eatery along the Strand.

At present I grow only a couple of ingredients at home. Although I have a large garden, I don't have a large amount of time to tend it. This may change. Eventually. I rather like the herb Rosemary, which is often included in the soup.

Found only on the top shelf.
A tub of JS TTD yogurt.

In Days of Old, expert nutritional advice had it that yogurt[3] was healthy to ingest. This theory appears at odds with the red and amber Reference Intake symbols present here on the lid. An impressive exhibition of honesty categorizes the vanilla flavour version, and the others in the same range, as indulgent.[4] Other purveyors (hello M&S) of the same epicureana are equally frank. One extra gram of saturated fat would necessitate another symbol specifically for this 'indulgence' ☠️

With a government health warning in place, you might expect me to give these monstrosities a wide berth. Well, I can resist anything except temptation. One per day, every day. Look, they've got no salt. I laugh in the face of 121 kilocalories.[5] Besides, they're de-lish.

Monday meal: noodles.

The zenith of my culinary week.
Photo of a Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodle.

Why, you ask? Referring to Thursday's repast, I locate that novelty mainly within the 'meal deal' aisle. Who can resist the siren voice 'Three for Two' emanating therefrom? "But, they're disgusting", you wail, "and packed with killer sodium". Well, disgust is in the taste buds of the consumer. Besides, we really aren't comparing this Pot with a meal at the Savoy. The comparison is with examples of my own cooking, whereby decomposing whale carcass takes on an irresistable, appetising and wholesome aroma 🐋

Tuesday meal: soup.

Tomato with pasta.
Photo of a serving of tomato soup.

Well, I call it soup, but potage would be more accurate. Anyway, soup isn't so much about what you cook as how you cook it. The logistic principle with Tuesday is that I make it in batches of between 5 and 10 servings that can be slung in the freezer until needed and can then reheat by microwave.[6] A huge time saver and, since I choose the ingredients, I can often eliminate salt. If it weren't for that, I would just buy a tin.

Complication #2. There is no shortage of soup recipes on the web, but most of them are cursed by one particular ingredient: stock. There are reasons why I take exception to that particular addition -

  1. 'Low salt' stock is less easy to find compared to its sodium packed counterpart.
  2. Most stock is based on chicken or beef. As most of the soups I'm doing are veggie, those types don't seem right. Sure, you can find vegetable stock - if you're prepared to pilot a drone up and down the aisles, taking aerial photos until you spot some on camera.
  3. Stock is wrong strategically. It's made by blending a load of veg and then drying it to a powder. You take this powder, add it to your own ingredients and then put water back in to replace what the stock manufacturer took out. Sorry, but you have an uphill battle to convince me that it would not be tastier and less expensive to add those vegetables directly to those I have already chosen. Besides ...
  4. Obviously, its another ingredient. So what, you enquire? I maintain that with most recipes, but with soup in particular, the more ingredients you throw in, the less likely you are to obtain an identifiably distinct taste. Perhaps a good analogy is with oil painting; the more colours you mix together on a palette, the more likely you are to end up with a brown monotone. An Oxo cube? Eighteen ingredients. It's curious that colour seems to make such a difference to a meal, too. Blend red tomatoes with any green vegetable, and you end up with something that looks like you eat it yesterday, rather than something that you might look forward to eating now 🤢

Here, for starters (ha!), is my parsnip and apple. Sounds bonkers, right? Well, it isn't completely my own idea. You notice that many vegetables on their own are bitter. Commercial soups fire a broadside of E-numbers at the problem to counteract it. That isn't on for home made, so I simply use something sweet like pineapple, melon, butternut squash, banana, grapes or, in this case, apple. The trick seems to work a little too well with the quantities here; the result is something that tastes more of apple than parsnip. If you see this as a disaster for the palate then feel free to forbid apple. Snake proffers apple.

Attempts to date:
700 grams.
250 grams. I chose fusilli.
2 medium size.
700 grams.
Milk (whole):
1.5 litres.
5 grams. I have a rosemary bush, so I use fresh; but dried (in some quantity) should be fine.
  1. Wash, peel and coarsely chop the onions. Place in blender.
  2. Wash, top and tail the parsnips and coarsely chop. Add to blender.
  3. Add ½ litre of milk to the blender and blitz until the vegetables are smooth. Transfer to the large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in the pasta.
  5. Wash and peel the potatoes, coarsely chop and place in blender. Add ½ litre of milk to the blender and blitz until they are smooth. Add to the mixing bowl.
  6. Microwave the mix at full power for five minutes or until just boiling. Stir. Reduce to 50% full power and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring now and again. Check that the pasta is soft.
  7. Wash, core and peel the apples. Coarsely chop and place in blender.
  8. Wash the rosemary and add to blender. Add ½ litre of milk to the blender and blitz until they are smooth. Mix into the bowl.
  9. Ladle the bowl contents into 10 x 400 millilitre takeaway tubs and freeze.

Did it work? Well, nearly. The pasta was an attempt to make the end result a bit less bland. It didn't help much. I might try spiralising the parsnip to impart some texture and colour variation to the mix. Might loose the onion and spuds, too.

Wednesday meal.


Thursday meal.


Friday meal: kedgeree.

Haddock and rice.
Photo of my plate of kedgeree.
Unsmoked, skinless, haddock fillets.
1 pack.
Brown rice.
75 grams.
Whole milk.
0.3 litre.
Curry powder (medium strength).
3 grams.[7]
66 grams (gross).

These quantities would serve two people for an ordinary brekka. As mine must substitute for dinner too, they satisfy me just fine.

Kedgeree is traditional English[8] fare at breakfast. The ingredients here are not far from tradition either. Understandably, in modern times, it has rather lost out to cornflakes. The preparation takes comparatively long, and I can recommend no pack of haddock taken from a cupboard after a month stored there.[9] However, prepare the hard-boiled egg the previous night.[10]

The main challenge, though, is the rice. Search the web for 'cook rice' and you will exhaust your bandwidth allowance in short order. However, all sources agree that brown rice (that I use) needs 30 minutes to soften. This is more than most folk are willing to grant a breakfast. You could instead use one of the pre-cooked pouches that require just two minutes or so in the microwave. There are also 'savoury rice' packs that work well, too.[11] No, I did it my way. I microwave the rice in milk; pretending that a superior result follows. This won't produce conventional 'fluffy' rice. I enjoy that type until it dries and hardens on the plate. With conventional kedgeree there is no liquid ingredient to ameliorate desiccation. This method yields rice that is softer, moist and glutinous; redolent of rice pudding. Future experiments will include butter.

It's a balancing act, though. You still have to juggle the quantity of milk, the cooking time and power level to end up with kedgeree served at optimum consistency. The current strategy goes like this:

  1. Put the rice, milk and sweetcorn into a tall clip-lock container that just fits into the oven. This is useful because it will not boil over readily. Hold the lid down with a single latch only.
  2. Bring to the boil with full power (about four minutes). Reduce power to simmer level (30% ?). Set the timer for half an hour.
  3. While the rice cooks, put the haddock into the pressure cooker and wind it up on the maximum ring setting. When steam is emitted again, reduce the ring to 1 or 2, keeping the cooker hissing slightly.
  4. Peel away the egg's shell and quarter it with a large knife. Alternatively, slice it with one of the many gizmos designed for the purpose.
  5. After the rice has had its 30 minutes, check that it has softened properly. If it hasn't then continue with the simmer.
  6. At this point there should still be milk not absorbed. This assists the curry powder to then mix in thoroughly.
  7. Take the haddock out of the cooker and put it into a large microwaveable serving pot. It will be easily broken into flakes.
  8. Tip the rice over the haddock and stir briefly.
  9. Now the tricky bit. Microwave the pot until the milk has almost gone. This will be about two or three minutes if you were spot on with the times, power and quantities to this point. Stir the mix for best results, reducing the power as the rice completes. Cover the pot, at least for the last heating.
  10. Place the egg slices on top. Garnish with chopped parsley to earn your Michelin star.

Switch out the sweetcorn for whatever you prefer: peas, string beans, mushrooms, mixed veg, peppers, sprouts etc. Top of my list: sultanas. Instead of curry powder I wonder if mango chutney would go? I won't try until I can find some salt-free.

Saturday meal.

Caption TBC.
Image TBC.


Sunday meal.